Why Nigerians Must Pay Attention to 2015 Cybercrime Act

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Tony Ojobo

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Tony Ojobo, director, Public Affairs, Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, speaks with Anayo Ezugwu, reporter, Realnews, on Monday, February 22, at the just concluded Social Media Week in Lagos, where the commission made a presentation on the 2015 Cybercrime Act and why new media practitioners must pay attention to it. Ojobo also emphasises that the NCC is not going to regulate the online or social media. Excerpts:

Realnews: Do you think Nigerians have confidence in NCC regulating the online media in the country?

Ojobo: We do not say that we are going to regulate the online media or social media. That is not what we are saying. The reason for this conference today is to draw the attention of the people who use the cyber space and the internet to the provisions of the Cybercrime Act 2015. This Act has stipulated some kind of guidelines to issues like cyber stalking, taking information unlawfully from organisations from their data base and things like that. And also issues like hate speeches. We are just coming from an election and during that period all kinds of things were circulated on the social media and a lot of people who are posting those things are not aware of the existence of this Act. So what we have done is to raise the level of discourse to bring people up to speed to the provisions of this Act. We are saying look we have a law somewhere so that when you are putting out something on your cyber space, you have to be sure of your information, source and make sure it’s correct. That is exactly what we are doing. We are not really regulating the online media.

Realnews: But we hear that the law has not actually been gazetted and that people have not actually seen the law.

Ojobo: It has been signed into law by the President.

Realnews: Has it been gazetted in a way that people can actually see it?

Ojobo: I think it should be in the ministry of justices and if the President has signed an Act in to law then it becomes a law.

Realnews: Did the telecom operators in any way try to complain to the NCC that the Over the Top, OTT, services are tapping into their resources?

Ojobo: Well, it has been a discourse not just in Nigeria but all over the world. Even at the International Telecommunication Union, ITU, level, there have been discussions on that and that is why they are called destructive technologies and it’s the operators that called it destructive because really it’s eating into their bottom line. But you see the point is that the regulator is there for innovation and creativity. The reason, for instance, why internet is not regulated today is because the developed countries have said look we can’t regulate the internet because it will kill innovation and creativity.  But the developing countries are saying we have to be protected from cyber security issues and cybercrimes. So the issue is that in every jurisdiction you need to craft your law in such a way that you protect your own national interest.

Now, whatever provisions that we have in this cybercrime Act, there can still be amendments. It is left for the relevant agencies, bodies or civil society groups who think maybe that some of the provisions should be amended to come up with their position paper and maybe even sponsor bills that will amend certain provisions of that particular Act, which they think is offensive. But basically what we are saying as a regulatory body is that the cyber space should be used ethically. There has to be ethical use of the cyber space. It has to be used according to the provisions of that Act and of course, there is no intention of the NCC to regulate the use of WhatsApp, Facebook or Twitter. Before we can do that there has to be a consultative forum where all stakeholders will have to make their input including the consumers, operators and government.

The commission can’t say we are going to regulate it, no. Our approach as the regulator has always been to carry all stakeholders along and we take all views into considerations before we can come out with our regulations. So it’s not in the works for now. What we have done is that we have carried out some studies on what is happening in other parts of the world with regard to OTT services and put it in our website inviting comments from everyone including consumer advocacy groups, operators and civil societies. Let people post their comments, then the commission will determine at the time when we are going to have the consultative forum to look at all the issues that have been raised. It’s only after that we can take any step but for now it’s not in the works.

Realnews: As the regulator who has full knowledge of this Act, what do you think is the role of the operators in relation to OTT services?

Ojobo: If you read the Act, it even talked about the cyber cafés. Now the responsibility you have as a service provider to anyone even if it’s the OTT services is for you to make sure that it’s being used ethically. For instance, cyber café should be able to put facilities on their platform that can fish out scam letters or messages that are going through their platforms. So you can’t say I’m sorry my platform was used to do this. You should provide relevant security facilities in your architecture that will detect scams that either come to you or going out from your platform. In cyber café, for instance, people are coming to use your platform to access the internet, you must have security features in your architecture that will detect when an individual is actually try to scam people using your platform. That is exactly what we are saying because the owner of the cyber café is as guilty as the person that is actually using the cyber café. So all of these are actually to protect individuals from cyber fraud. The responsibility is for everyone to understand where they fit-in in all of these issues and be able to act according to your roles and responsibilities. What we have done as the regulator we have come to elevate the level of discourse and consciousness of the existence of this particular Act and let the discussions continue. Let people begin to now debate it on whether it’s right or not and whether we need to amend some of the provisions.

Realnews: Should you not have done this sensitisation before the Act was signed into law?

Ojobo: The point was explained if you listened to one of the interventions. At the time the Bill was in the National Assembly, usually we have the first reading, second reading and they go to public hearing and the public hearing are usually advertised. So if there was public hearing and people didn’t pay attention to it and people didn’t participate, who would you hold responsible? But in order to respond to this question, laws can be amended and that is why we are raising the consciousness so that people will be aware. If people now think that there are some areas of this Act we need to make our input, of course, people could move for the amendment of that provision. That an Act has become law doesn’t mean there won’t be any amendment.

—  Mar 7, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT

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