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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Fuel subsidy protest & rampaging hactivists


The recently ended week-long strike and protests brought to the fore, various forms of agitations by Nigerians yearning for good governance, including hacking of websites, reports REMMY NWEKE.

Most Nigerians woke up on Sunday, January 1, 2012 to behold what has been largely tagged as President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s alleged ‘greek-gift’ of fuel subsidy removal, which from Monday, January 2, have kept the nation tensed up with one protest or another over the fuel pump price increase from N65 to N141 per litre.

It follows that on Wednesday, January 4, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) held a meeting of its National Executive Council (NEC) to take a position, while various civil society groups continued protests; both coordinated and uncoordinated. And at the end of the NLC meeting, it was resolved that since the Federal Government decided to inflict pains on Nigeria as her New Year gift, Nigerians under the Labour and Coalition of Civil Society Organisations would equally embark on literally total strike, which eventually commenced on Monday, January 9, this year.

Between January, Monday 9 and Monday 16, when the strike was called off after the two-day stay at home order by NLC and CSO groups; to enable Nigerians restock, the week-long strike left the nation counting losses of millions of Naira, which according to Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria lost about N300bn based on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimate, that is, before President Jonathan reduced the pump price early Monday morning from N141 per litre to N97.

Although, the strike created some brisk businesses for some too, others used the opportunity to express themselves, mostly on lack of good governance that has eluded the country since independence in 1960 till date; including lack of social amenities like pump-borne water, electricity, good roads, and healthcare to name a few.

One thing that surfaced during the strike-week was the unveiling of some talented Nigerians such as the release of ‘Hear The Voice’ by new entrant Aduke, who could not but qualify as a youth-activist among others.

Equally of note was the fact that some Nigerians under the aegis of NaijaCyberHactivists joined forces to literally bring down some notable websites in the country, especially those belonging to the Federal Government ministries, namely the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Nigerian Army Education Corps (NAEC); in effort to occupy Nigeria institutions online, while those protesting occupy their vicinities and streets.

Technologically speaking, a hacker refers to a contentious term used in computing for several types of persons, while computer security experts see those hackers as crackers, who access a computer system by circumventing its security system, even as some described them as hobbyist who make innovative customizations or combinations of retail electronic and computer equipment, yet there are those who know them as ‘programmer subculture,’ who share an anti-authoritarian approach to software development now associated with the free software movement.

Also, Webopedia, an online encyclopedia described a hacker as a term used for a computer enthusiast, that is, a person who enjoys learning programming languages and computer systems and could often be considered an expert on the subject(s). Among professional programmers, depending on how it’s used, the term could be either complimentary or derogatory, although it is developing an increasingly derogatory connotation than complimentary.

Equally, word experts at Webopedia, noted that the pejorative sense of hacker is becoming more prominent largely because the popular press has co-opted the term to refer to individuals who gain unauthorized access to computer systems for the purpose of stealing and corrupting data. While hackers, themselves maintained that the proper term for such individuals remain crackers and not hackers.

Investigations carried out by ITRealms Online during the week-long fuel pump price protests showed that hackers were on rampage by occupying Nigerian businesses, especially Federal Government institutions websites online and even some private media stations, in sympathy of the populace following the sudden removal of fuel subsidy by President Jonathan.

Although, ITRealms Online gathered that by the week-ending January 13, 2012, NAFDAC website, http://www.nafdac.gov.ng/ was restored, while that of EFCC, www.efccnigeria.org remained inaccessible for a little longer. Whereas, additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying to use an Error Document to handle the request being displayed on the website ever since last Friday when the EFCC website went live with the news that the likes of telecom business mogul, Mike Adenuga, Femi Otedola and others were allegedly arrested.

Also, ITRealms Online gathered that sooner than it was hacked, officials of EFCC denied the arrest of these businessmen, alleging that its website was hacked.

Further investigations by ITRealms Online revealed that on Thursday, January 13, 2012, NaijaCyberHactivists had stated through social media, Twitter; that EFCC would be occupied for unwillingness to give the Nigerian people justice. The call to occupy EFCC was for not bringing the suspected cabals among the oil importers and corrupt politicians in the country to book, which was a popular demand online and throughout the protest across the country.

“The AYES have it. EFCC’s website goes down officially at exactly 2pm tomorrow with an #OccupyEFCC chatbox on it,” the NaijaCyberHactivists wrote in one of their Tweet handles.

In what started with a question from NaijaCyberHactivists on a motion: Should EFCC’s website be occupied for mis-information & lack of will to prosecute the cabals? Aye or Nay? The majority of followers on NaijaCyberHactivists affirmed to the temporary occupation of EFCC website.

ITRealms Online recalled that the hackers lived up to promise by occupying EFCC site with that notice, following the alleged announcement by the Commission for arresting and detained some 21 executive directors of oil-chip firms for defrauding the nation over fuel subsidy.

The former Head, Media & Publicity Unit, EFCC, Mr. Femi Babafemi was purportedly reported as saying in a press statement dated January 13, 2012 that those arrested were in response to fuel subsidy scam.

He also alleged to have said that operatives of EFFC had detained at the weekend the managing director of CONOil, Otunba Mike Adenuga, who also is the executive chairman, Globacom and three others.

These comprised of his counterparts at African Petroleum (AP), Mr. Femi Otedola, MRS Oil, Mr. Sayyi Dantata and Mr. Adewale Tinubu who is the Group Chief Executive of Oando plc  to name a few.

Equally, Babafemi was reported to have disclosed that some senior officials of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), “who defrauded the nation several billions of Naira” were also in EFCC net.

He was further alleged to have said that in total, “21 executive directors have been detained in all and at the moment being interrogated over fresh information that they allegedly stole fuel subsidy funds,” even as he promised to release more information later.

This was further strengthened by the fact that some media organizations who rushed to the press with the phoney story, especially online medium to announce the arrest have since yanked the announcement off their websites.

Although it was rumoured that the said Mr. Babafemi Babalola, may have resigned from the employ of EFCC as at January 12, 2012. However, EFCC since Friday denied the reported arrest of Adenuga and co.

Speaking on this development, the Publicity Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Emeka JP Obegolu told ITRealms Online that as much as Nigerians are entitled to peaceful protest within the law, hacking of website is a cybercrime and legitimate protesters are not welcome, advising those hackers to avoid criminality as a way of protest.

For the Vice President, Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA), Mr. Sunday Folayan, hacking is simply cyber-terrorism, wondering if those websites were professionally done. He insisted that in a matter like this, “Never negotiate with terrorists, in whatever sphere.”

Reacting to the development, the group chief executive of Teledom International Group, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem lamented the fact that hacking is a cybercrime and Nigeria is still yet to conclude on her cyber security law.

Ekuwem, who was the immediate past president of Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), also decried that certain Critical National Information Infrastructure have not been classified, describing these state as sad, even as he noted that without adequate law in place it would be difficult to criminalize hacking of any website in the country, let alone those belonging to the Federal Government.

“Do we have a cybercrime and cyber security law in place? No! Sad! Have we designated our Critical National Information Infrastructure? No! Sad! There is no law yet that criminalizes the hacking of FG or any web sites. Pity!” he lamented.

And for the chief operating officer, NIRA, Mr. Ope Odusan, who urged online business owners in the country to take time out to know their web hosting companies.

“I recommend that website owners adopt a Know Your Hosting (KYH) company and demand their security programme for Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack,” he advised, explaining that DDoS is an attack where multiple compromised systems, which are usually infected with a Trojan; are used to target a single system causing a Denial of Service (DoS) attack.

But trying to justify the hacking of MDAs, one of the protesting Nigerian youth who gave his name as Hareem, said the hacking of government institutions website was a very good way of communicating protesters’ message loud and clear to the government. Mostly “if they don’t still understand what is going on.”

The bottom-line is that as much as protest is a fundamental right where it is allowed, there are some criminal activities that could emerge in the cause of such a protest which may not be justifiable in the face of law, especially cyber law, where one exists.

With this development, it’s imperative for Nigeria through the Ministry of Communications Technology to invest in this by getting the cyberlaw for the country, at least within the tenure of this current minister, Mrs. Omobola Johnson and Jonathan-led presidency before 2015.

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