EXCERPT | Nigeria: Cybersecurity and the Establishment of the 2015 Cybercrime Act

EXCERPT | Nigeria: Cybersecurity and the Establishment of the 2015 Cybercrime Act

By Raymond Adibe, Cyril Chinedu Ike, and Celestine Uchechukwu Udeogu

EXCERPT | Nigeria: Cybersecurity and the Establishment of the 2015 Cybercrime Act

The advent of digital technology gave birth to modern communication hardware, internet access, and computer data-processing systems. Cyberspace has created geometric growth by accelerating opportunities for business through the removal of economic barriers [1]. People from diverse areas of human endeavor can now freely access and utilize the advantages offered by the internet.

Online press or journalism is one of the many profitable economic activities that have become popular as a result of the rise in internet accessibility in Nigeria. It is a contemporary form of journalism where editorial content is distributed via the internet as opposed to being published via print or being broadcast on radio or television. Online journalism allows for connection and discussion at levels that print and traditional broadcast media cannot offer. It represents a revolution in terms of how news is consumed by society – for example, consumers can comment on articles and start discussion boards to talk about articles with other consumers [2].

However, despite the benefits online journalism offers its readers, it has also posed some serious challenges to cybersecurity in Nigeria. It is now possible for anyone who is internet-literate to write articles and post them online. The average person can now have an impact in the news world through tools such as blogs, and it is increasingly difficult to sift through the massive amount of information coming in from the digital area of journalism [3]. In the digital media world, it has become common practice for users to ridicule, harass, or insult those who disagree with their point of view. This, according to Maho [4], has led to frequent damage to people’s reputations online. The absence of any form of mandatory registration or demand for strict compliance to any ethical and professional standards makes the regulation of articles published though the online press more difficult [4].

The Cybercrime Act of 2015 is the first legislation in Nigeria that deals specifically with cybersecurity. It was signed into law by former president Goodluck Jonathan on 15 May 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 (Cybercrime [Prohibition, Prevention, etc.] Act 2015). Cybercrimes are crimes in which a computer is the object of the crime or is used as a tool to commit an offense. Offenders may use computer technology to access personal or commercial information or use the internet for exploitative or malicious purposes [5]. Section 24 in part III of the Cybercrime Act is aimed at regulating the latter.

The Cybercrime Act prohibits cyberstalking in order to effectively regulate the spread of false stories and sometimes also indecent or unethical images online. Section 24 (1a) of the act states that any person who knowingly or intentionally sends a message or other matter by means of a computer system or network that “is grossly offensive, pornographic or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character or causes any such message or matter to be sent” has committed an offence under the act and shall be eligible for prosecution. Also, Subsection 1b provides that any person who knowingly or intentionally spreads messages or other matter by means of a computer network system that “he knows to be false, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another or causes such a message to be sent” faces the same possibility of punishment.

The role of the internet, particularly social media, in influencing voters’ participation and the outcome of the 2015 presidential election in Nigeria as observed by experts such as Omojuwa [6] and Reid [7] is an indication that the internet has become an influential source of information and social mobilization. Thus, there is a need to tackle cyberstalking – that is, the spreading of false information and/or images on the internet aimed at discrediting or defaming another person’s character. Maho [4] noted that because anyone with basic knowledge of internet usage can become an untrained online journalist with potentially thousands or even millions of followers, it is imperative for the government to control the kind of stories published online. In the age of online journalism and extensive use of social media in the redistribution of news, this provision in Section 24 of the act has immense implications not only for online press freedom in Nigeria but also for freedom of expression in general. However, to better understand these implications, the connection between liberal authoritarian democracy and press freedom in post-colonial states such as Nigeria needs to be explained.

About the Authors:

Raymond Adibe is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of Nigeria, with a specialization in Political Economy. He has published in numerous international journals, and his research interests include peace and conflict studies, global political economy, politics in Arab states, and Nigerian government and politics.

Cyril Chinedu Ike is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of Nigeria. He received his doctorate from the University of Salzburg, Austria, in 1990 with a specialization in International Relations. He has authored and co-authored scholarly publications in Peace and Conflict Studies and Comparative Politics.

Celestine Uchechukwu Udeogu is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of Nigeria and a doctoral student in International Political Economy with research interests in peace and conflict studies; terrorism and strategic studies; global governance; and politics, state, and economy. He has published various journal articles and book chapters.

Cite this Article:

Adibe, Raymond / Ike, Cyril Chinedu / Udeogu, Celestine Uchechukwu (2017), Press Freedom and Nigeria’s Cybercrime Act of 2015: An Assessment, in: Africa Spectrum, 52, 2, 117–127. http://nbn-resolving.org/urn:nbn:de:gbv:18-4-10521

Publication Details:

Published by GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Institute of African Affairs in cooperation with the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation Uppsala and Hamburg University Press in African Spectrum (Journal) which is an Open Access publication under the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

References:

[1] Ehimen, Okonigene, and Adekunle Bola (2010), Cybercrime in Nigeria, in: Business International Journal, 3, 1, 93–98.

[2] Cohen, Nicole S. (2015), From Pink Slips to Pink Slime: Transforming Media Labour in a Digital Age, in: Communication Review, 18, 2, 98–122.

[3] Ornebring, Henrik (2010), Technology and Journalism as Labour: Historical Perspective, in: Journalism, 11, 1, 57–74.

[4] Maho, Austin (2016), Freedom of Expression, Cybercrimes Act, Matters Arising, in: Nigerian Pilot, online (14. April 2017).

[5] Okoh, James, and Enyinnaya Chukwueke (2016), The Nigerian Cybercrime Act 2015 and Its Implications for Financial Institutions and Service Providers, in: Financier Worldwide, online: (14 April 2017). 

[6] Omojuwa, Japheth (2015), Social Media and 2015 Elections: Beyond APC vs PDP, in: NAIJ.com, online: (7 February 2017).

[7] Reid, Skylar (2015), Nigerians Look to Social Media amid Information Scarcity ahead of Election, in: Aljazeera America, online: (7 February 2017). 
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