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Computer professionals seek pact between security operatives, researchers

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To curb rising insecurity in the country, security agencies have been urged to strengthen collaboration with the education sector and support research targeted at developing locally made digital solutions and equipment that could be used to fight crime in Nigeria.

This call formed part of the recommendations, which emanated from the 2022 Information and Technology (IT) Assembly, organised by the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN) in Abuja.

With the theme: ‘Leveraging IT for National Security and Economic Stability,’ the IT Assembly was the 16th edition, and provided an avenue for stakeholders to share their thoughts on how strategic technology is to improve the economy and curbing rising insecurity in the country.

The National Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Data Protection Bureau (NDPB), Dr. Vincent Olatunji, delivered the keynote address. The discussants were Head of Forensic, Nigeria Police Force, ComPol Shehu Gwarzo; Prof. Francesca Oladipo of the Computer Science Dept, Federal University, Lokoja, Kogi State and Wing Commander Futua Kazie of the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).

Opening the programme, the President and Chairman of Council, Kole Jagun, said the theme was carefully selected because of the serious role that ICT could play at this critical time when the whole world is facing enormous challenges in the area of cyber security, national security and socio-economic development.

Jagun said it had become clear that based on the current global trends, there is a need to maintain a high level of national security and economic stability.

He stressed that Nigeria and the world are faced with enormous and daunting security challenges that require that people come up with new strategies and solutions, “such novel solutions can only come with the proper deployment of information technology tools.”

According to him, in Nigeria today, “we are faced with multi-faceted challenges of youth restiveness, non-traditional military warfare, cybercrime, banditry, kidnapping and many other crimes. Additionally, COVID-19 pandemic further worsened the economic situation of the country because the lockdown period significantly constrained economic activities in the country and lowered the income of individuals as well as that of the government, thereby creating an unprecedented depression in the country.”

In his paper, Olatunji said it hadbecome evident based on global trends that maintaining a high level of national security and economic stability at this age requires a new strategy with digital solution at the core of the game.

According to him, globally, attention is now shifting to non-traditional military or physical security to cyber security, which has a tremendous negative impact on global economies and by extension, sustainable socio-economic development.

He said cyber warfares including hacking, information jamming, attack on command and control systems, surveillance equipment and cybercrimes, are major IT-related issues around global insecurity.

Lamenting the impact of COVID-19 on the Nigerian economy and rise in cybercrime, Olatunji said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) reported that 80 per cent of the 978 convictions it secured as at September 2021 were based on cyber frauds.

According to him, another report by Nigeria Inter Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) indicated that within nine months of 2020, fraudsters made 46,126 attempts to breach data based systems. Sadly, 41,979 of these were successful – representing 91 per cent of the time!

Olatunji added that a survey, titled: ‘The State of Ransomware 2022, revealed that 71 per cent of Nigerian businesses were hit by ransomware attacks in 2021 and that the cost of remediation of these attacks for 44 per cent of the businesses was $3.43 million. He said the implications are definitely huge on our economy and image as a country.

According to him, globally, the COVID-19 pandemic further worsened the economic situation as the lockdown period significantly constrained economic activities and the circular flow of income. He stressed that most of the primary effects of the COVID-19 crisis have been economic, rather than health-related.

“For instance the early part of the COVID-19 crisis ushered in Nigeria’s deepest recession since the 1980s, hitting hard on many services and industries except the ICT industry which bounced back the economy due to migration of socio economic activities to digital platforms,” he stated.

The NC, NDPB, listed some of the reasons IT has not really been able to impact national security in most developing countries, including Nigeria to include corruption, inadequate research, lack of technological know-how, inadequate collaboration, inadequate funding and political instability.

Overcoming these challenges, Olatunji said there must be funding, policy and strategy, infrastructure, human capital development, ecosystem development/local content and stakeholders’ management.

In all, the communiqué issued at the end of the events recommended among others, need to advance and improve on digital literacy and IT awareness for all and sundry in order to improve the overall security architecture of the country; Nigeria youthful population in the universities need  to be given the  right training with the right curriculum to enable them come up with innovative digital solutions  and  discourage them from engaging in social vices like drugs, crime and substance abuse.

According to CPN, in order to combat the issues concerning license and patent rights on imported technological equipment and infrastructures used by security agencies to combat crime, there is a need for production of those equipment locally in order to save foreign exchange and grow our local IT industry.

The body said there is need for collaboration and synergy among the security agencies in the deployment of IT equipment and tools to combat crime and bring about economic stability in Nigeria; need for collaborative efforts from both Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and Federal Ministry of Education for further research on new innovations in the area on national security that are developed by Nigerians.

CPN also stressed that governments at various levels should provide an enabling environment for the brilliant and well trained youths to develop local IT solutions to solve our peculiar challenges, saying this will eventually discourage mass exodus of Nigerian youth to foreign countries and develop our national economy.

“We need to strengthen local content in combating crime and bring about economic stability. This could be accomplished through the strengthening of initiatives and collaboration with relevant bodies with focus on security and IT like the newly created NDPB. CPN should also be involved in collaborative efforts to ensure meaningful data protection regulation in Nigeria. Also, all our local Information Technology service providers should be patronised and given the opportunity to come up with solutions to some of our security challenges.”

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