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HOW PHONES CAN HELP SECURITY AGENCIES TRACK KIDNAPPED VICTIMS —EXPERTS

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Phone Security

Kidnapping, the action of abducting someone and holding them against their will, has been on the ascendancy in Nigeria.

In the four months of 2022, about 1,827 kidnap cases were reported, according to the Nigeria Security Tracker. While this is a 14.10 per cent decrease from the 2,127 recorded in 2021, it is a 962.21 per cent increase from the 172 kidnaped cases reported in the corresponding period of 2017.

According to the NST, 293 kidnapped cases were reported in 2018, 532 in 2019, and 780 in 2020. According to experts, this followed the rising spate of insecurity in the nation and needed a holistic approach if it is to be resolved.

According to them, telecommunication held tremendous potential to help security operatives in their search for kidnapped victims. They said almost everyone had telephones, and the situation could be leveraged to locate victims of kidnappings.

The Nigerian Communications Commission stated that there were 306.31 million connected GSM lines in March 2022. Each of these lines are connected to owners, and experts have said those phones could serve as trackers, albeit with privacy risks.

The NST data show that 15 kidnapped cases were recorded daily in the first 120 days of 2022. Almost every day, someone is tweeting about how they escaped a kidnapping attempt or the picture of a kidnapped victim.

Numerous reports have said there is a kidnapping endemic in Nigeria. A report by SBM Intelligence said that insecurity in the nation had risen sharply in the last few years. According to the report, at least $18.34m was paid to kidnappers as ransom from June 2011 to March 2020.

It stated that only $11m was paid between January 2016 and March 2020, indicating how lucrative kidnapping has become. Kidnapping for ransom is on the rise in all states of the nation.

According to a security expert, Jackson Ojo, technology could help to track kidnapped victims, but it had security concerns.

He said, “It is very possible technologically, but you cannot go ahead and begin to do it because you need the approval of the network providers. And the network providers will not listen to you until the security agencies apply to the court. Without the court, this is just a case of privacy infringement.”

According to him, security operatives in the nation needed a court order to gain access to private data. He added that they would not get this order if someone related to the victim did not give them.

He stated, “But the problem with the procedure is that someone must first approach the court, someone must also give security agencies the power to approach the court. That is if there is no one giving instruction to the security operative, who will approach the court.

“What we are facing in Nigeria is a complicated system where there is no synergy between the individuals, Nigerians, security operatives, and the judiciary. There is no synergy. After tracking these criminals and taking them to court, there is still a chance that the court will let them go.”

Ojo said the NCC was not doing enough regarding helping security agencies to track kidnapped victims. According to him, there had to be synergy between the commission, security agencies, and the court.

He added, “People that kidnap others send videos over the Internet. These things are not possible without a network. Why can’t the commission make moves to get this metadata? It wasn’t magic that America did when only a single person was kidnapped in Borno.

“They showed up within three days, tracked the victim, and took them back home.  They leveraged on telecom technology, same as we have here. But how are we using our telecoms here? It is very possible to use people’s phone numbers to track them. We need to simplify this process. And one of the major ways to achieve this is to give security agencies express permission.”

Recently, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, said security agencies had got approval from the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, to access the database of the National Identity Management Commission in the course of carrying out their duties.

He said, “Some of the security institutions, based on the cybercrime law, are allowed to gain access to the database without coming to us because the database allows for lawful intercept. That lawful intercept was allowed in order to support our security agencies.”

He did not disclose if the security operatives had access to the International Mobile Equipment Identity number of subscribers which was needed to track phones.

Although, recently, the NCC, which is under the supervision of the minister, announced plans to create a database for IMEIs in the nation in order to help with the tracking of phones when they get lost.

According to the Founder, e86 Limited, OluGbenga Odeyemi, security agencies should not get express access to the phone data of individuals without checks.

He said, “The same tool used for security can be compromised and will lead to bigger issues. This is especially a bad idea considering our political space. It is an invasion of privacy.

“To effectively track a phone, you will need to go beyond tracking the last network broadcast. The level of access required will definitely compromise privacy. Also, at what point do you begin to track?

“Before the kidnapping or after? Most victims are not even allowed to use their phones, most phones are taken away and destroyed.”

Odeyemi added, “What we have heard repeatedly is that security operatives are aware of the locations of these criminals. We have heard that security operatives are able to listen to phone conversations and monitor other transactions originating from their mobile devices.

“I do not think this has to do with the lack of technology. These criminals receive shipments of food, weapons, and other supplies. They receive money and transport money to their sponsors; it cannot be so difficult to do a trace on these activities.

“Even if the most sophisticated tools are deployed, getting evidence is one thing, making use of the evidence to seek justice is another thing. I think the latter is the problem here. Justice and fairness are what is missing everywhere you look in the country.”

He stated that while he agreed that more technology would help security agencies, he would not agree that the reasons why criminals had not been apprehended or why victims had not gained freedom was because of security operatives’ inability to track phones.

According to him, there was a need to focus on the general safety of cities, towns, and roads. He stated that if overall security was improved, cases of kidnapping would reduce.

He added, “When the Nigerian police or FRSC want to arrest an offending driver, they either block the vehicle with their own bodies or chase with their vehicle. There is practically no way to track such a driver once the driver has left the scene.

“A country that has no comprehensive and central database for registered vehicles within the country has its work cut out.  The best way to solve a problem is to attack the root cause and not only treat the symptoms. Kidnapping is a symptom of the security system we have not been able to build.”

He said while it was now possible for devices to communicate over the Internet as a result of the Internet of Things, there was a need to address more nuanced security issues in society.

He added that while providing the appropriate technology, training, and access was necessary, there are core security issues that needed to be addressed.

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NIGERIA PREPARES 5G TECHNOLOGY FOR DIGITAL ECONOMY

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Nigeria has made some significant success in the drive towards enthroning the national digital economy for the country.

This was disclosed by the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, in his keynote address at the 2022 Nigeria DigitalSENSE Forum series on ‘5G: Enthroning Internet Governance for Digital Economy’ held in Lagos.

DigitalSENSE Africa, a project of ITREALMS Media Group, puts Nigeria DigitalSENSE Forum on Internet Governance for Development together.

Buttressing his position, the EVC, who was represented by a Deputy Director and Head of Spectrum Database Management at NCC, Abraham Oshadami, while dwelling specifically on “5G: Enthronement in Nigeria’s Telecom Sector” outlined some 11 points to drive home his assertion.

Some of these steps, he said, include the creation of a full-fledged department of Digital Economy in NCC with a mandate amongst others, to ensure that the programmes and targets set in the NNBP 2020-2025 and NDEPS 2020 – 2030 are rigorously pursued, tracked, and attained; INFRACO companies have been licensed to deploy fibre on an open access basis in six geo-political zones of the country and Lagos State. Approval to commence rollout was given in April 2021.

According to him, they have developed and secured the Federal Executive Council’s approval on Nigerian 5G Policy to guide deployments of 5G services nationwide, while acknowledging efforts of the Minister of Communication & Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami.

In addition, he said, NCC had successfully licensed two lots of 100 MHz bandwidth in the 3.5 GHz Spectrum band for 5G deployment in December 2021, just as they set up and expanded the Internet Exchange Point capacity of 930 MB/s for Abuja to Lagos Route, 620 MB/s for Abuja to Kano Route, 310 MB/s for Lagos to Port Harcourt route, bolstering landed total offshore broadband capacity of 50.74 TB comprising 40TB Submarine and 10.74 TB of Satellite and the figures are already set for increase.

Equally, he said, NCC followed up on the global industry trends on 5G spectrums such as the 26 GHz, 38 GHz and 42 GHz bands harmonized in World Radio Conference 2019 (WRC-19), and has updated the National Frequency Allocation Table (NFAT) to reflect the outcome of the WRC-19 through opening up the 60 GHz V-band; Opened up the 70/80GHz E-band for both point-to-point and point-to-multi-points deployments; and developed and published the Spectrum Trading Guidelines amongst other benefits.

These, he said, are evident in the efforts of the commission being demonstrated in the smooth update of previous technologies such as 2G, 3G and the 4G; and the one that is now being implemented to ensure the deployment and adoption of 5G infrastructure and services in Nigeria.

Equally speaking, the Director-General (DG), National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Mallam Balarabe Musa said that in the past few days, digital technology usage around the world have improved including raising the bar on credibility of election results across the continent.

Balarabe, who was represented by a delegation led by the Lagos Zonal Director, Dr. Chibuike Ogwumike, charged stakeholders including various regulatory organs, industries, network operators, service-technology providers, public and private partnership organisations to synergise and be in continued dialogue to address the challenges that may face the widespread 5G deployment worldwide.

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NIGERIA ORDERS FACEBOOK, TWITTER, OTHERS TO PROVIDE INFORMATION ON ‘HARMFUL ACCOUNTS’

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President Muhammadu Buhari

The Federal government has announced new regulations for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other internet platforms operating in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) released the regulations in a draft copy of the Code of Practice five months after a six-month ban on Twitter.

The conditions include opening an office in Nigeria, the appointment of a country representative, compliance with applicable tax obligations, giving the government access to manage prohibited content, and respect for Nigerian laws and the national culture and history.

A draft copy of the Code of Practice mandates internet platforms to act promptly in obeying “court order directing a Platform to provide any information under its domain or any assistance to any authorised government agency for the purpose of carrying out an investigation, combating cybercrime, or prosecuting an offence.”

NITDA said the objective of the ‘new code’ is to “set out best practices that will make the digital ecosystem safer for Nigerians and non-Nigerians in Nigeria.”

The government agency said the guidelines were “developed in collaboration with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), as well as input from Interactive Computer Service Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Google, and Tik Tok amongst others.”

Before lifting the ban on Twitter, the Nigerian government said Twitter agreed to five conditions it is imposing on other social media platforms.

While the conditions are yet to be fully implemented, the government said social media platforms must comply with the “new code” for continued operation in Nigeria.

According to the code, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, and others must “provide information to authorities on harmful accounts, suspected botnets, troll groups, and other coordinated disinformation networks and deleting any information that violates Nigerian law within an agreed time.”

Social media platforms must also “provide a comprehensive compliance mechanism to avoid publication of prohibited contents and unethical behaviour on their platform”, according to the code.

NITDA spokesperson Hadiza Umar in a statement said the code was designed to protect the “fundamental human rights of Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in the country as well as define guidelines for interacting on the digital ecosystem.”

“Other relevant stakeholders with peculiar knowledge in this area were consulted such as Civil Society Organizations and expert groups. The results of this consultations were duly incorporated into the Draft Code of Practice,” Umar said.

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FG ORDERS TWITTER, TIK TOK, OTHERS TO APPOINT COUNTRY REPS

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NITDA

The National Information Technology Development Agency has disclosed that interactive computer service platforms and Internet intermediaries are required to fulfill certain conditions in running their services in Nigeria.

These conditions are stated in the recently released Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries (online platforms).

This is according to a statement issued by NITDA on Monday.

The statement read in part, “NITDA wishes to present to the public a Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries for future review and input.”

The Code of Practice was developed by NITDA alongside the Nigerian Communications Commission and National Broadcasting Commission,with input from platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Google, and Tik Tok.

One of such conditions in the Code of Practice is that each online platform is required to have a country representative, who will interface with the Nigerian authorities.

This means that Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Google, Tik Tok and other interactive online platforms are required to have country representatives.

Other conditions include registering with the Corporate Affairs Commission as a legal entity, complying with tax obligations, and abide by regulatory and legal demands.

The Code of Practice is aimed at safeguarding the fundamental human rights of Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in Nigeria, and regulating interactions on online platforms.

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