Since the introduction of cashless policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigerians have enthusiastically embraced the platform. In the first quarter of 2019 alone, the volume of transactions though Automated Teller Machines (ATM) was 202,959,732 amounting to total value of N1,539,265,918,383.
Similar impressive figures were recorded for Internet transfers which had a value of N107.6 billion from 20.4 million transactions and mobile money with N100.7 billion from just under three million transactions. The growing adoption of e-payment in Nigeria has opened numerous opportunities for experts involved in the vending, installation and maintenance of softwares and hardwares.
It is on this premise that the report attributed to the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) that Nigeria loses about N3.133 trillion to cybercrime and foreign software annually is disturbing. According to Director General of the agency, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, N127 billion is lost to cybercrime annually due to the nation’s inability to adequately secure information systems. With the growing sophistication of hackers, there has been an upswing in the breaching of the various e-payment platforms through which individuals and corporate organisations have been losing money.
Going by the figure from NITDA which put the yearly loss at N127 billion, the danger of serious loss of confidence in the system is clear and present. At nearly N130 billion, the amount of yearly loss is already alarming and deserves a concerted approach to address the situation.
We agree with Pantami that there is urgent need to continually protect the country’s information system from being compromised as today, most business processes are carried out electronically, and large amounts of information are stored, processed and transmitted over IT networks, which means businesses, administrations and citizens depend on proper operations of the information technology used. Invariably, securing Nigeria’s Information Systems is imperative, if we want to guarantee safe delivery of e-payment services.
In addition to the over N3 trillion lost to foreign software, Nigeria is apparently not taking optimum advantage of the new frontiers opened by the business community’s embrace of the e-payment system. The requisite manpower, expertise and technical back up are adequately domiciled in the country to enable the nation exploit and integrate the growing sector under internal control. While the sector continues to grow, local experts have frowned against what they say is inadequate protection by government and poor patronage of their services by the various levels of government and their agencies.
Official figures have it that the indigenous software market in Nigeria loses about $10 billion (N3.06 trillion) annually to stiff competition from foreign off-the-shelf software used to meet local needs, where indigenous software could have provided the appropriate solutions.
We call on the federal government to liaise with professional groups and stakeholders in the local ICT sector to evolve measures to curb the losses through e-payment. An option to ensuring this is by encouraging indigenous experts in the development of softwares and safeguards against hacking and fraudulent operations. While foreign softwares may seem convenient to pick off the shelf, they may not be suited to the peculiar challenges and dynamics of e-payment in Nigeria.
We believe that collaborating with the pool of indigenous experts hold the key to evolving the measures to stemming the disturbing loss in the e-payment system. If the legislation to enforce the patronage of local experts is inadequate or nonexistent, stakeholder groups should initiate the process of enacting such a bill. At the end of it all, the economy will be put on sure footing if confidence in the system is boosted.