Internet scams perpetuated by ‘Nigerians’ on the Internet continue to undermine our credibility in the global business scene. Despite the efforts of some of our citizens to emphasize that Nigerians are not the only Internet fraudsters, the truth remains that the country is abysmally ineffective in combating the crime. We understand that all nations including US, UK and Germany have miscreants and fraudsters; yet, it is safe to argue that these countries have tools and processes geared to make the web a nice platform for commerce.
Nigeria has followed policies after policies towards mitigating the impact of cyber fraud. Unfortunately, the trend continues to grow when global origins of scam emails are aggregated. The country remains an indisputable leader in this shameful act with its unintended harm to Nigerians living abroad who are increasingly and erroneously associated to it, simply on the grounds they are Nigerians.
The challenge becomes, how do we solve this problem? Governments have worked hard to change the course but have achieved minimal success. They have focused on strengthening the legal system and enforcing rules on when Nigerians can use the Internet, especially in commercial cybercafé. Studies have shown that most of the emails are sent from commercial cafes where the bad guys go on all-night browsing. So, it was thought that, eliminating the all-night browsing could reduce the frequency of the emails. Even that failed as most of the guys moved to the day and separating a legitimate intention from fraudulent one remains difficult for operators of cybercafés.
But I have a plan on how this problem could be solved or mitigated. We need clarity and must think strategically on this issue. Certainly the boys that send these emails cannot argue that unemployment moved them to break the laws of the land, nevertheless, it is imperative we have a holistic plan to tackle this challenge. And that plan must involve not just legal and policing, but economics, anchored on both preventive and corrective measures.
To begin, I will invest $10 billion dollars to expand the Nigeria’s economy and create jobs to accommodate any young man or woman that could earn a degree, OND or HND and possibly high school certificate. This money will come from our present excess crude reserves which hovers around $50 billion.
Building on the enormous success of the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), I will expand broadband communications to all major cities in Nigeria. Relying on their passion, hard work, curiosity and determination demonstrated in the 419 and Internet fraud skills, I will open the doors for them to indulge in legitimate web businesses. They are creative and very smart guys, but unfortunately using those talents in the wrong ways. They work hard, staying awake all-night to crawl the Internet- I see character and strong work ethics with determination.
Understand that Nigeria has no ecommerce since we have no major acceptable e-payment in the country. Our participation in Visa and MasterCard payment schemes has not been successful because of the ultra security features introduced by the Nigerian banks that issue these cards. Few use these cards and our ecommerce is still at a very infancy stage. And in most cases, they are debit cards. The country through a vibrant web industry could expand its economy by 10% within few years. The wealth of our art, our movie, our tourism cannot be commercialized without a viable web payment system.
We have boys who are fraudsters today but have the minds of risk takers and entrepreneurs when you meet them in Lagos. We must find how to help them succeed legally. I will push to the National Assembly to fund a National Rebirth Foundation. We would disburse fund and develop a new generation of vibrant young business leaders in the country through a technology incubation system. I will make this a technology solution with focus on impacting skills.
I will put about $1 billion to investment in emerging technology and entrepreneurship programs. I will establish 6 Information Technology Academy in the six geopolitical zones. In these academies, we will pursue technology creation over consumption and move the guys to begin to design and develop, over consumption. Instead of playing video games, I will challenge them to design video games based on African themes. Our focus will be niche afro-centric strategy that captures the essence of humanity and dignity. Right in these academies, we will move Nigeria’s Nollywood movie industry to the new level of technical sophistication and creativity.
Also, I will establish a National Semiconductor Institute (NSI). This would create a forum to drive hardware and software engineering and harness the hacking and engineering skills of these guys to make Nigeria better. For the guys that hack into bank networks, I will identify them and transform them into anti-hacking monks. NSI will create an environment to enable them share and collaborate legally. Through NSI, we would drive towards systems for innovation and entrepreneurship in upper level of ICT. We would vigorously pursue ways to become a hub for global outsourcing by providing world class training to them. We will build platforms and begin that quest of moving from minerals to knowledge.
Investment will go into education and other critical areas of the economy. We will emphasize on primary education to ensure that pupils are prepared for success in their adulthood. Other major technical fields will receive our attention as well.
Besides, I will task government to provide electricity to ensure the businesses remain on stream. Without electricity, there is no economy. We have to address this as one of our priorities.
Furthermore, I will invent a new National Orientation Agency which would be dynamic, fresh and engaging. I will continue to talk to guys through the church, mosque, schools etc. They would know that their actions are making things difficult for their brethren abroad. Some have lost their jobs because they have been profiled unfairly though they have not committed any crime.
I will challenge Nigerian leadership to show transparency and accountability. While the 419ers steal from foreigners, some of the leaders steal from Nigerians. They are all crimes. When an ex-governor is arrested for stealing, it sends terrible signals to all the little boys and girls that stood in his independence parade.
In addition, I will push for creative educational system that would make graduates less dependent for job but rather come out with ideas to be employers of labor. Help create a system that would allow people to setup businesses with ease and help them succeed.
Finally, I will enforce all the 419/Internet Laws in Nigeria. I will make the ISP (Internet Service Providers) do background checks before they accept new customers. Just like banks do when you try to open accounts, the ISP must do the same (get references). Also, they would be required to vault all traffics through their networks. Yes, they cannot see the contents of the traffics, but must provide the vaulted data when needed. Only the government agency can see and decode the details. This ensures the privacy of the citizen is not compromised by the ISP. This seals any loophole from the ISP.
To curb the evils from cybercafes, all cybercafes must have video cameras with time stamps for anyone that logs and uses a PC. When we notice a PC has been used for fraudulent activity, we would track the ISP and then IP and through that nab the guy. We would work with NTA for Nigeria’s Most Wanted 419ers every week to show the pictures of 419ers we hope to nab. This would seal the cybercafe problem. Technology can solve these problems. Ask Londoners, they have cameras everywhere and they are better off.
The phone/fax 419 is not a big problem because statistics show that email is usually the first point of contact. If we seal email, we have managed the phone issue.
Hope you got my ideas. Just like armed robbery has not stopped by firing robbers, 419 cannot stop by locking 419ers up. You need to think above these guys and invent a system that would engage them. In marketing, there is a term they call NEP (Need, Expectation and Perception). The last emphasizes understanding the perception of your customers. Nigeria has to be ahead of her youth and provide the environment to enable them survive. Yes, discover something to absorb the ingenuity, intelligence, passion these guys invest in this illegal job.
Internet fraud brings shame to the country; we have a moral obligation to solve this problem and help these guys rediscover their goals in lives. The nation has the capacity to do this change if we bring fresh perspectives to how we fight this crime.