By Josephine Uba
Nigerians have become cyber-creatures, spending a significant amount of time online. As the digital world expands, so does cybercrime in Nigeria. The necessity to combat these seemingly uncontrollable phenomena gave rise to Cyber Laws in Nigeria.
Cyber law acts as a shield over cyberspace, preventing cybercrime from occurring. The government is committed to developing and enforcing regulations to combat illicit online activities.
The “Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention) Act, 2015” has a significant impact on cyber law in Nigeria. This Act creates a comprehensive legal, regulatory, and institutional framework in Nigeria to prohibit, prevent, detect, prosecute, and punish cybercrime.
The Act also encourages cybersecurity and protection of computer systems and networks, electronic communications, data and computer programs, intellectual property, and privacy rights, as well as the protection of important national information infrastructure.
What is a Cybercrime?
Cybercrime is a type of crime that takes place in cyberspace, or in the realm of computers and the Internet. Because our society is evolving towards an information society where communication occurs in cyberspace, cybercrime is now a global phenomenon. Cybercrime has the potential to significantly influence our lives, society, and economy.
What is Cyber Law?
Any law that deals with the internet and similar technology is known as cyber law. Cyber Law is frequently referred to as “Law of the Internet” or “IT Law.” It’s a legal framework for dealing with issues relating to the Internet, computing, Cyberspace, and other associated matters.
One of the newest aspects of the legal system is cyber law. This is due to the rapid advancement of internet technology. People who use the internet have legal safeguards under cyber law. This applies to both business and common citizens. Anyone who uses the internet should be familiar with cyber laws.
Intellectual property, contract, jurisdiction, data protection laws, privacy, and freedom of expression are all covered by cyber law. It oversees the distribution of software, information, online security, and e-commerce via the internet. E-documents are given legal validity in the field of Cyber Law. It also establishes a framework for e-commerce and e-filling.
To put it another way, Cyber law is a legal framework for dealing with cybercrime. Due to the increased use of E-commerce, it is critical that suitable regulatory practices are in place to ensure that no malpractices occur.
Cybersecurity laws vary a lot from country to country and jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Penalties depend on the nature of offence, and will range from a fine to imprisonment. It is critical for citizens to understand their particular countries’ cyber laws in order to ensure that they are fully informed about all cybersecurity issues.
Categories of Cybercrime in Nigeria:
- Cybercrimes against People:
Cybercrimes against people include cyber harassment and stalking, e-mail phishing, the dissemination of child pornography, various sorts of spoofing, credit card fraud, human trafficking, identity theft, and online connected libel or slander.
One of the most serious Cybercrimes nowadays is the trafficking, distribution, publishing, and dissemination of obscene material, such as pornography and indecent exposure. The potential harm to humanity from such a crime cannot be overstated. If not managed, this is one cybercrime that threatens to impair the progress of the younger generation as well as leave irreparable scars and injuries.
Correspondingly, in Nigeria prior to the gruesome murder of Cynthia Osokogu in July 2012, as reported by an online news magazine, people had suffered a similar fate. For example, Uzondu, an undergraduate student at a private Christian university in Ogun State, allegedly contracted the dreaded Human Immune Virus, HIV, from a man she thought was her boyfriend.
The victim met the con man on the famous social networking platform, Facebook, and before she knew it, she was whisked away to a fantasy holiday where she was lavished with expensive presents such as an iPad and the latest BlackBerry phone, among other things. During these amorous outings, the young girl became pregnant, but her partner was nowhere to be found. Unfortunately, she has no idea who the man was, no contact information, and no place of employment. Worse still, she tested positive for HIV.
- Cybercrime against property
The second type of cybercrime is cybercrime against all types of property. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, hacking, virus transmission, cyber and typosquatting, computer vandalism, copyright infringement, and Intellectual Property Right (IPR) breaches are examples of these crimes.
- Cybercrime against the Government:
The third category of cybercrime is cybercrime against the government. When a cybercrime is committed against the government, it is considered an attack on the sovereignty of a nation and an act of war. Hacking, gaining access to confidential information, cyber warfare, cyber terrorism, and the use of pirated software are all examples of cybercrime against the Government.
The expansion of the Internet has revealed that the channel of Cyberspace is being used by people and groups to threaten foreign governments as well as intimidate a country’s citizens. When an individual hacks into a government or military-run website, the offense becomes terrorism.
Most of these types of cybercrimes have been addressed by the Cybercrimes Act of 2015.
Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention) Act, 2015
The Act provides an effective, unified and comprehensive legal, regulatory and institutional framework for the prohibition, prevention, detection, prosecution and punishment of cybercrimes in Nigeria.
Cybercrimes highlighted under this ACT include:
- Offences against critical national information infrastructure
- Hacking Computer Systems and Data Alteration
- Unauthorized Access of Protected Systems
- Illegal Registration of Cybercafé or Usage of Unregistered Cybercafé
- System Interference
- Interception of electronic messages, email, electronic money transfers
- Tampering with critical infrastructure
- Willful misdirection of electronic messages
- Unlawful interceptions
- Computer related forgery
- Computer related fraud
- Theft of Electronic Devices
- Unauthorised modification of computer systems, network data & system interference
- Publishing False Digital Signature and Certificates
- Cyber terrorism
- Exceptions to financial institutions posting and authorised options
- Fraudulent issuance of e‐instructions
- Tampering with Computer Source Documents
- Identity theft and impersonation
- Child pornography and related offences
- Racist and xenophobic offences
- Attempt, conspiracy, aiding and abetting
- Importation and fabrication of e-tools
- Breach of Confidentiality and Privacy
- Manipulation of ATM/POS Terminals
- Phishing, spamming, spreading of computer virus
- Electronic cards related fraud
- Use of fraudulent device or attached e‐mails and websites
Administration and Enforcement Cyber Law in Nigeria
Under the 2015 Cybercrime Act, the National Security Adviser’s office serves as the coordinating body for the security and enforcement authorities. The Attorney-General of the Federation reinforces and improves Nigeria’s existing legal frameworks regarding cybercrime.
All law enforcement, security, and intelligence agencies develop the institutional capacity necessary for the effective implementation of the provisions of the 2015 Cybercrime Act, and in collaboration with the Office of the National Security Adviser, initiate, develop, or organize training programs for officers charged with cybercrime on a national or international level.
Establishment of the Cybercrime Advisory Council
To Coordinate Cybercrime Act 2015, there was established a Cybercrime Advisory Council (in this Act referred to as “the Council”) incharge of handling issues relating to the prevention and combating of cybercrimes, cyberthreat, computer-related cases and the promotion of cybersecurity in Nigeria.
The Cybercrime Advisory Council comprises of a representative each of the following Ministries, Departments and Agencies –
(a) Federal Ministry of Justice;
(b) Federal Ministry of Finance;
(c) Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
(d) Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment;
(e) Central Bank of Nigeria;
(f) Office of the National Security Adviser;
(g) Department of State Services;
(h) Nigeria Police Force;
(i) Economic and Financial Crimes Commission;
(j) Independent Corrupt Practices Commission;
(k) National Intelligence Agency;
(l) Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps;
(m) Defence intelligence Agency;
(n) Defence Headquarters;
(o) National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons;
(p) Nigeria Customs Service;
(q) Nigeria Immigration Service;
(r) National Space Management Agency;
(s) Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency;
(t) Nigerian Communications Commission;
(u) Galaxy backbone;
(v) National Identity Management Commission;
(w) Nigeria Prisons Service;
(x) One representative each from the following:
(i) Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria;
(ii) Internet Service Providers Association of Nigeria;
(iii) Nigeria Bankers Committee;
(iv) Nigeria Insurance Association;
(v) Nigerian Stock Exchange;
(vi) Non-Governmental Organization with Focus on Cyber Security.
What is the Importance of Cyber Laws in Nigeria?
Cyber law is important for organizations that are exposed to risk as a result of an inefficient cybersecurity system. These laws apply to all forms of corporate organizations and digital systems that do business on a daily basis. Each organization adheres to unique cybersecurity guidelines, cybersecurity legislation, cybersecurity policies, and legal issues regulations.
The following points demonstrate the significant importance of cyber law in Nigeria:
- It establishes the parameters for all acts and reactions in Cyberspace.
- All online transactions are guaranteed to be safe and protected.
- Cyber law enforcement officials monitor all internet activity.
- Protection for all data and property of individuals, organizations, and Government
- Contributes to the elimination of unlawful cyber activity through due diligence
- All activities and reactions carried out in any cyberspace have a legal component.
- Maintains a database of all electronic records
- Contributes to the establishment of electronic governance
The main reasons why cyber laws are essential to Nigeria Businesses are:
- Employees Safety: When a business is protected by cyber laws, its employees are safeguarded from potential cyberattacks.
- Business protection: When it comes to protecting a business, cyber laws are important. This ensures that employees of an organization can browse the internet without fear of being attacked. Due to cyber laws, a company can send and receive important and vital data between networks.
- Personal Data Protection: Cyber laws protect a user’s personal information. Numerous threats exist in the digital world; cyber laws aid in the confidentiality and protection of personal and sensitive information communicated over the internet.
The Notable Areas of Cyber Law in Nigeria
Cyber laws serve a lot of purposes. Some laws safeguard people from becoming victims of crime as a result of unethical internet activities. Other laws establish guidelines for how individuals and businesses may use computers and the internet. These laws cover a diverse range of issues and activities, but they all fall under the umbrella of cyber law. The following are the primary areas of cyber law:
Cyber laws are relied on by consumers to safeguard them against online fraud. There are laws in place to protect against identity theft, credit card theft, and other financial crimes committed online. A person who steals someone else’s identity may face federal or state criminal penalties. A victim may also file a legal suit against them. Cyber lawyers work to prosecute and defend against charges of internet fraud.
The internet has made it easier to violate intellectual property rights. Copyright infringement was as simple as clicking a button on a file-sharing website in the early days of online communication. Individuals and businesses both require attorneys to pursue actions to enforce copyright protections. Copyright infringement is a branch of cyber law that protects individuals’ and businesses’ rights to benefit from their creative works.
Many people use the internet to express themselves. When people use the internet to spread false information, it can cross the line into defamation. Defamation laws are civil laws that protect individuals from false public remarks that can harm a company’s or an individual’s reputation. When people use the internet to express statements that contravene civil laws, this is considered cyber law.
- Stalking and Harassment
Online statements can sometimes breach criminal statutes that ban harassment and stalking. When someone posts frequent or threatening claims about another individual online, they may be breaking both civil and criminal laws. When stalking occurs via the internet or other kinds of electronic contact, cyber lawyers both prosecute and defend the victim.
- Freedom of Expression
Freedom of expression is an important aspect of cyber law. Even while cyber laws restrict certain online acts, freedom of speech rules allow people to express themselves. Cyber lawyers must advise their clients on the boundaries of free expression, especially laws prohibiting obscenity. Furthermore, cyber lawyers may defend their clients if there is a disagreement over whether their conduct constitute permissible free speech.
Companies that conduct business online frequently rely on cyber law to safeguard their trade secrets. Google and other internet search engines, for example, spend a significant amount of effort building the algorithms that provide search results. They also devote a significant amount of work to developing other features such as maps, intelligent assistance, and airline search services, to mention a few. Cyber lawyers assist their clients in taking legal action as needed to preserve their trade secrets.
- Employment and Contract Law
You have violated cyber law every time you click a button that states you agree to the terms and conditions of using a website. Contracts safeguard individuals and businesses when they utilize technology and conduct business online. Non-compete clauses in employment contracts, for example, used to affect only a small, local geographic area. As more businesses conduct their operations online, the method lawyers design these agreements and courts enforce them may alter. Lawyers must try to represent their clients’ best interests in areas of law that may still be unresolved.
In most cases, patents are utilized to protect an invention. These are commonly used on the internet for two reasons. The first category is for new software. The second category is for novel online business methods.
- Trademarks and Service Marks
Trademarks and service marks are used in the same way in the online and offline worlds. Websites will be protected by trademarks. Service marks are provided for websites that offer services.
- Domain Name Disputes
Domain disputes are specifically about who owns a web address. For example, the person in charge of a website may not be the person who owns it. Furthermore, because domains are inexpensive, some people purchase multiple domains in the hopes of making a large profit.
Most people believe that contracts do not apply online. This is not true. When you sign up for a website, for example, you normally have to agree to terms of service. This is actually a contract.
Online businesses must protect their customers’ privacy. The specific law may differ depending on your industry. As more information is exchanged via the internet, these laws become more crucial.
- Data Retention
In the internet age, data handling is a top priority. Litigation is one area where this has become a major issue. It is becoming typical in litigation to obtain both electronic and physical records. However, there are no current regulations that mandate electronic records to be kept forever. This is not the case with physical records.
Trends in Cyber Law
Topics and questions relating to cyber law are constantly evolving. Lawmakers and business leaders are still debating how individuals and businesses should be allowed to use the internet.
Every year, the importance of cyber law grows. This is because cybercrime is growing in popularity. To combat these crimes, significant trends in cyber law have emerged. Among these trends are the following:
- Regulations that are new and more rigorous.
- Retaining and enforcing existing laws.
- Enhanced knowledge of privacy concerns.
- Cloud Computing
- How virtual currency may be a target for cyber criminals.
- Usage of data analytics.
Governments and cyber law enforcement organizations will prioritize raising awareness of these issues in the near future. Cyber lawyers may advocate for their clients by approaching legislators to explain their position and request laws that benefit them. Cyber lawyers are involved in the continuous debate about what laws should be enacted in this area of law.
Why You Need a Cyber Lawyer in Nigeria?
Cyber lawyers practice in a wide range of areas and expertise. They work in small, medium, and large businesses. They both work in private practice and for the federal government.
Cyber Lawyers may practice criminal law or work for an organization that develops and enforces civil laws. They can also work for organizations that enforce cyber laws and assist the public in using the internet safely.
If a client has a dispute over a cyber contract or domain use, they can turn to their cyber lawyer to help them resolve the issue or navigate related litigation. Because of the jurisdictional issues that may arise in cyber law, lawyers who assist their clients with cyber lawsuits may need to work carefully to develop their case.
Another crucial role of cyber lawyers is to assist clients to develop best practices for conducting business and personal affairs. For example, a cyber lawyer representing a hospital may assist them in implementing measures to comply with privacy rules while still protecting personal information. Cyber lawyers also assist organizations in maintaining client confidentiality in accordance with federal, state, and local laws.
Where To Get a Cyber Lawyer in Nigeria?
At Olisa Agbakoba Legal (OAL), we have skilled and experienced cyber lawyers that can support and provide legal and advisory services.
Our Cyber lawyers deal with issues of cybercrimes against individuals, companies or the government, and handle cases related to e-commerce, e-contracts and digital signatures, intellectual property rights, cybersecurity, etc.
Feel free to Contact OAL’s Cyber Lawyers to discuss issues relating to internet technologies and cybercrime in Nigeria.
Josephine Uba is Lead Digital Strategist at Olisa Agbakoba Legal