" ITREALMS: Stakeholders want N/Assembly to fast-track cybercrime bill


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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stakeholders want N/Assembly to fast-track cybercrime bill

Stakeholders in the Nigeria’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, have called for the fast-tracking of the nation’s cybercrime bill before the National Assembly to ensure its passed prior to the end of current parliamentary session due to close on May 29, 2011.

This is coming against the drop that over 10 African countries have enacted legislation on cybercrime to give confidence to electronic and mobile commerce traders.

Leading this call was Dr. Ewelukwa who gave this charge, weekend, at the two-day Nigeria DigitalSENSE forum on Internet Governance and Broadband Evolution held in Lagos, while presenting a paper on the ‘Legal Framework for Electronic Commerce and Mobile Commerce in Africa: Nigeria as a case study,’ saying that further delay portends economic danger for the country.

Nigeria, he said, has travelled far along the road to e-commerce and m-commerce and is currently at a critical stage that needs an urgent attention of entrenching the legal framework into the system, especially on the cybercrime.

He noted that the Federal Government invariably recognizes this fact for a stable legal framework for electronic transactions in the country, which paved the way for its reflection in Nigeria’s Information Technology (IT) policy.

“It is therefore important that one of the current legislative bills aimed at ensuring a stable legal framework for online transactions should be enacted before the end of the current parliament,” he said.

Ewelukwa who is a Senior Teaching fellow in International Trade Law with the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, said that one of the legislative bills regarding computer misuse and cybercrime should be enacted into law without further delay, warning that any attempt to delay this cybercrime further would amount to economic loss to Nigeria as most international businessmen and traders could divert any investment under the portfolio to neighbour countries for conveniences.

“Any loss of eCommerce potential by Nigeria on account of an inadequate legal framework will undoubtedly be a gain for Ghana and other African countries that have enacted ecommerce and cybercrime laws,” he cautioned.

Ewelukwa also stressed at the forum presided over the former president of Nigeria Internet Group (NIG) that this has become imperative because these countries are in a better legal position to protect those transacting online business within their jurisdictions.

“This should not be allowed to happen,” he declared, warning that if the Federal government is unable or unwilling to enact a law that accords legal validity to electronic transactions, state governments could take up the challenge and undertake law reform at the state level aimed at enacting laws that recognize the validity and legality of various forms and applications of electronic data including signatures, writing and communication.

He pointed out that though FG recognizes the need for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) knowledge and trained manpower for the ICT sector, as well as striving to improve internet connectivity in the country working in partnership with private firms already operating in the sector, these efforts are laudable, but the end results are more important.

“If all these efforts ultimately result in an adequately trained ICT workforce and universal internet access in the country, Nigeria will be on the road to a brighter digital future,” he said, stressing that this very vital that this dream be kept alive.

Ewelukwa noted that in the past two decades, there has been a phenomenal increase in the electronic commerce (e-commerce) mode of transacting business, with billions of dollars spent online globally every year by businesspeople that meet in cyberspace to transact in various goods or services.

“Mobile Commerce (m-commerce) has also taken root in many countries, especially developing countries, providing a means for people to transfer money and transact business using mobile phones,” he said.

According to him, while these technological innovations are very commendable, it is important however that they do not run ahead of laws that ensure their legal utilization and proper regulation in respective jurisdictions.

In this regard, he noted for instance that, the Nigerian banking industry that hurriedly embraced the credit card system did not carry the law enforcement and criminal justice sector along in the capacity to understand the intricacies and multiple dimensions of the problem.

The result, Ewelukwa said, is that today there are huge and rising incidence of cybercrime which, sadly are under-reported and for which the law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges are unable to match the crime with appropriate punishment.

“Can Nigerians legally enter into electronic business transactions? Is there adequate legal protection from various risks associated with transacting business electronically? Are there other non-legal constraints that can impede the uptake of e-commerce and m-commerce in Nigeria?” he wondered.

However, in proffering solution, Dr. Ewelukwa said, it has been argued that a lot still needs to be done to ensure the stability of the legal and regulatory framework for electronic business transactions in Nigeria, and give confidence to those that choose to transact business in this manner.

Hence more reason why the National Assembly must fasten its attention to the cybercrime bill and ensure the delivery before the end of parliamentary year.

Giving insight on the state of e-Commerce and m-Commerce in the contest of Africa, Dr. Ewelukwa said that the increasing deployment of broadband internet in some African countries will make it possible for these countries to also tap into the ecommerce market which may hold the key to unlocking the full trading potentials of their citizens, and ultimately contributing to overall economic growth and development.

Citing a recent statistics on internet use in Africa, he said it has grown by 2,357.3 per cent between 2000 and 2010 and as of June 2010.

According to him, there were an estimated 110,931,700 internet users in Africa, translating to 10.9 per cent internet penetration for the African population, just as they currently constitute 5.6 per cent of global internet users.

“Although Africa has the lowest internet penetration per population relative to other regions of the world, the phenomenal increase in internet usage over the past decade indicated that e-commerce may still have a promising future on the continent,” he asserted.

Describing the rapid adoption of mobile commerce (m-commerce) in many African countries as fascinating, he noted that an increasing number of Africans now use their mobile phones to transfer money, make bank deposits and effect payments for goods or services.

An increasing number of African countries have also enacted legislation over the past decade aimed at ensuring that electronic transactions are anchored on a firm legal foundation. These include Cape Verde (2000) , Mauritius (2000) , Tunisia (2000) , South Africa (2002) , Egypt (2004) , Ghana (2008) , Senegal (2008) , Kenya (2009) , Zambia (2009) , Cameroon (2010) , Rwanda (2010) and Uganda (2010).

He lamented the fact just about one quarter of African countries have enacted laws to back electronic transactions, those that have done so deserve commendation, while the rest need to do so without further waste of time to enable their citizens fully and effectively partake in the opportunities presented by the digital revolution taking place in the continent including Nigeria.

Remmy Nweke:
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