By Prince Osuagwu
FRESH indications have emerged that the Nigerian state would stop at nothing to hand in very stiff penalties to vandals of telecom infrastructure as well as to those whose activities bridge the country’s cyber security.
From recent pronouncements and activities of relevant government officials and agencies, proper and strict legislation on these areas could as well be regarded as finalised waiting for official pronouncement.
For instance one of the critical issues, the Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson kept reiterating at the just concluded Edo state Technology day event last week, was that government is desirous to no end, to protect the over $25 billion investment in the nation’s Information and Communications Technology sector.
She stated that to that extent the National Assembly has also realized why the pressure that it legislated upon the protection of ICT facilities, as well as the county’s cyber security, should be given prime attention.
Reading the lips of the Minister, there is no way the soon to be passed law on these issue, would be kind on telecom facility vandals and cyber criminals.
Specifically, Johnson announced that the Federal Executive Council has already approved a comprehensive cyber security bill that will soon be passed into law by the national assembly, having received due considerations of relevant stakeholders.
For her, “having such a bill which addresses the designation of ICT infrastructure as Critical National Infrastructure, passed into law, should serve as a major deterrent to individuals who are perpetrating atrocious crimes in cyber space.”
Besides the revelations of the Minister, other actions of relevant agencies are beginning to underscore the seriousness of government to plug waste by fully putting technology into use in governance.
Recently, the Nigeria CommunicationsCommission (NCC) recently signed a Memorandum ofUnderstanding, MoU, with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to establish a regional cyber security centre in Nigeria.
The centre, according to NCC, will facilitate collaboration and efforts on measures to combat cyber threats at national and regional levels, help in the protection of citizens’ online activities and save the country’s economy from collapse as many world economies have nosedived due to activities of cyber criminals.
Meanwhile, experience has shown that besides massive investments required in systems, software, hardware and skilled personnel to bring this to fruition, not much of positive result would be recorded without robust cyber security laws that would also respect privacy.
Governance goes automated
Another evidence the government was relying upon to have the National Assembly surely do the needful,is the increasing successes of the public sector in handling finance functions, leveraging on ICT.
In many areas that government has introduced digital budgetary and financial management system, there are evidences of transparency.
For instance, it was recently made public that over N34 bn was recovered from illegal accounts in just 60 percent of Federal Budget executions that were allowed to apply the recently introduced Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) package. GIFMIS is an automated account platform that manages budget execution process and helps identify and address sources of leakage.
Customs deploy e-service portal
Also, the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, recently introduced the single window e-services portal which provides a one -stop shop where its rules and regulations are easily accessible. The NCS said that besides helping to enhance ease of compliance for businessmen and women who operate within its area of jurisdiction, the portal will also enable a more effective and efficient allocation of resources.
IPPS flush ghost workers
In the same vein, in some of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies where the recently introduced Integrated Personnel & Payroll Information System (IPPIS), a biometric-based systems, has been deployed, reports are that federal government has recouped approximately N119 bn that were hitherto wasted even as about 46,000 “ghost workers” were also discovered. This has given FG, the confidence to promise that all MDAs must be captured by the payment system by year end.
e-Wallet saves farmers
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture &Natural Resources (FMARD) also stands out in the automation of governance, with its recent roll-out of E-wallet program under its Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme. The Wallet is meant to allow subsidies on seeds and fertilizer to be received directly by the intended end-users.
This cuts out the middle men and speculators who previously lived off this transaction.
Sources close to the ministry said that over N25bn on conservative estimate, was saved by this implementation in 2012 alone.
CT ministry flaunts portal
To appreciate all the efforts, perhaps, the Communications Technology Ministry itself, had launched a portal, www.services.gov.ng., which provides a single window through which existing e-government services such as drivers’ licence, passport issuance, visa procurement for non-nationals and a limited number of new online services from the Ministries of Agriculture, Education, Health as well as Industry, Trade & Investment can be accessed.
Over time, several individuals, advocacy groups and associations in the Information and Communications Technology industry have condemned the country’s porous cyber space and the impunity with which telecom facilities are vandalized without commensurate punishment or action.
Prominent groups like the Nigerian Cyber Security Group, Association of Licensed Telecom Operators in Nigeria, ALTON and its affiliate group, Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria, ATCON, as well as ICT media advocacy group, The Joint Action Committee for ICT Awareness and Development, JACITAD, have at one time or the other challenged the government to automate its activities and see reasons to provide adequate legal backing to the country’s burgeoning technology developments.