The twenty-first century has ushered in a period of ease and convenience for many nations. Advances in commerce, better means of transportation, healthcare, and the rise of information communication technology (ICT) have proven to be very useful in today’s world.
With the advent of digital technology, every aspect of life has been transformed. The digital transformation of the economy has led to the creation of new business models, new products and services, and new ways of doing business. However, as technology has advanced, so have crime and insecurity, with Nigeria ranking as the 8th least peaceful place in Africa, according to the 2021 Global Peace Index (GPI).
The rising incidence of insecurity in Nigeria has deepened poverty and increased economic inequalities. Amid the insurgency of Boko Haram and bandits, the threats of cybercriminals grow undeniably in cyberspace.
Security is a growth driver wherever you look – be it in the private sector or the public domain. An absence of security breeds chaos. In the past, security and access solutions took the form of classic mechanical lock and key systems.
Now, advancing digital technology is influencing these classic systems, including cyberspace, acting as a double-edged sword. While one side cuts, the other mends. It is not surprising therefore that many of the arrays of new digital technologies that are emerging are equally the greatest threats especially as it pertains to cybersecurity.
Some experts believe that to mitigate the impact of physical insecurity and curb the threats of cybercriminals, effective inter-agency collaboration is a necessity. This was part of the submissions of the Pan African Digital Initiative Summit and Expo (P.A.D.I.S.E) hosted by Tech TV, themed: ‘Leveraging the Right Policies and Technologies in Taming Insecurity and Cyber Threats’.
The two-day conference featured several industry experts, including Engineer Ikechukwu Nnamani, President, Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) and CEO of Medallion Technologies, Peter Ejiofor, CEO Ethnos IT Solutions, Dr. Victoria Ekhomu, CEO, Transworld security systems, Dr. Krishnan Ranganath, CTO, Africa Data Centres, Shehu Ibrahim, DG, Bureau for ICT, Nasarawa State, Bayo Abiodun, Managing Editor, Africa Telecom and IT News, Engineer Austine Nwanoli, from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), SP Benjamin Hundeyin, from the Lagos State Nigerian Police Force (NPF) and Don Pedro Aganbi, Tech TV founder, veteran tech journalist and Convener of the summit.
The Director General for the Bureau of ICT, Nasarawa State, Mr. Shehu Ibrahim, stated that the correct implementation of technology can solve many of the insecurity issues affecting the country today. He said: “Technology holds the promise of significant social and economic benefits, increased efficiency, and enhanced productivity across a host of sectors, both private and public. The truth is that while many of these new technologies are easy to access and use, most of them are inherently vulnerable to exploitation and disruption from both near and far. This is the real issue today.”
“The challenges are numerous and growing. Unfortunately, the very technology that is meant to improve the digital economy is the very ones that cybercriminals now use to gain access to perform nefarious activities. In considering how to leverage the right policies and technologies in taming insecurity and cyber-threats, effective collaboration between tech and security organisations is essential, to protect individuals” he added.
Engineer Ikechukwu Nnamani, President, ATCON & CEO of Medallion Technologies, emphasized the need for accurate data gathering and cooperation with regulatory bodies. He said: “Nigeria is a nation that needs accurate data for research and record purposes. For us to safeguard the country from various risks, including cybercrime, cyber-attacks, and ransomware, we need accurate data. We need to have data to make the right decisions, we need to be able to identify vulnerabilities in online systems so that we can fix them.”
“In the physical world, data is also important. Imagine having accurate data on the total amount of networks, GPS, internet service providers and cell towers in the country. So many positives can be achieved from this. A quick example will be to pinpoint locations to intercept criminals.
Asides from this, cooperation is needed between mobile network services and law enforcement to apprehend these individuals,” he remarked.
Regarding the economy, Engineer Ikechukwu noted that the world is gearing towards digitisation and Nigeria needs to grow in these aspects so that it is not left behind. “Data is the lifeblood of the digital economy. It’s used to create new products and services, make decisions as regards security, and much more.”
Speaking in the same vein, Benjamin Hundeyin SP, a police officer from the Lagos State Police Force, stated that the police rely on a couple of measures to protect citizens from risks and enhance national security. “The NPF has collaborated with the West African Police Information System (WAPIS) to begin data collation of all nefarious individuals across the West African region. The NPF Force HQ has a Technical Intelligence Unit (T.I.U) to combat cybercrime and physical threats to Nigerians.”
“We are improving on the response time of our security personnel, to protect our citizens, from physical attacks, which is part of our sole duties. However, we are facing several challenges, which include a lack of funding, lack of security gear, lack of improved gadgets and the growing number of non-state armed groups (NSAG) are exacerbating conflicts and insecurities,” he added.
“But I believe that effective inter-agency collaboration can curb the rising spate of insecurity. We have collaborated with the Nigerian Army Cyberwarfare command, which sends us classified intel, which assists us in curbing cybercrime. We have some initiatives, such as the Police Trust Fund, and the Rescue Me App to assist the populace with security issues. We also collaborate with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and other security agencies to rescue kidnapped individuals and prevent threats from happening in the country. We are not there yet, but we are making progress,” Benjamin said.
“Despite government efforts, the security situation in Nigeria is deteriorating. Indeed, the lingering conflict between herders and farmers in north-central Nigeria has been a cause for serious concern,” said Dr. Victoria Ekhomu, CEO, Transworld security systems. “Co-operation and collaboration are pertinent if we are to win the war against insecurity,” she added.
Engineer Austine Nwanoli, from the NCC, on his part, spoke about the need for implementing policies while taking key learnings from Interpol’s 2021 Africa Cyber Threat Assessment Report.
Engineer Austine noted that: “We cannot deny the potential of cyber terrorism and insecurity in Africa because more and more infrastructures are becoming technology driven and particularly Internet-driven. It is unfortunate that while digitalisation has contributed immensely to human advancement, the world still must deal with cyber terrorism. It is more and more evident that unlawful activities such as the dissemination of fake news and ideas are being perpetrated with the aid of smart devices, and computer systems.”
“NCC as the independent communications sector regulator has been playing a great role in supporting efforts and implementing initiatives that ensure the integrity of the country’s cyberspace,” he concluded.
Other panelists on the second day of the event, reiterated similar opinions on tackling insecurity.
Increasingly, national security agencies have begun to recognise that true security cannot be achieved without effective collaboration.
No matter the new conceptions of security formulated, the important thing to note is that achieving complete security requires a great deal of contextual information and effective collaboration.
It is time for Nigeria to take action to limit the risks that come with emerging technologies. It is time for Nigeria to prioritise securing her physical and digital space, to put in place policies to enable true security and by that secure Africa.
Effective collaboration between agencies and the populace will undoubtedly reduce the scourge of insecurity.
Reginald Onabu, a scientist and upcoming public relations practitioner writes from Lagos.