Eleven months after the Federal government introduced an electronic payment system in all its Ministries, Departments and Agencies, Nigerians are yet to feel its advantage over the manual payment system it sought to replace. People are blaming it for delays in the payment of salaries and other forms of expenditure by the Federal Government such as execution of contracts.
The government says it is aware of the limitations of the system and has promised to seek a lasting solution to it. While acknowledging the limitations and problems associated with the e-payment, it still maintains that the system is better than the manual payment system.
The perceived gains and constraints of the system have prompted a special legislative briefing and round table on Cyber Security Strategy organized by the National Assembly Anti Money Laundering and Cyber Security Coalition in conjunction with the Policy Analyses and Research Project (PARP). To make the briefing all inclusive, Federal Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) are involved too.
The theme of the conference, “Implementing the federal E-payment programme within safe and survivable environment,” is to draw attention to the reality of the danger ahead of the new financial strategy if the cyber environment is not secured. Participants at the legislative briefing will be drawn from the financial sector, the legislature, policy framework implementers and operators of the telecoms industry.
Internet fraud in the country has caused so much damage to corporate organizations and individuals who have fallen victims of hackers especially through mobile networks. The Executive vice chairman of the Nigeria Communication Commission Ernest Ndukwe has expressed confidence in the network operators, but as a regulator body in the industry, the commission is yet to convince the public that internet fraudsters have no collaborations with mobile networks.
The National Assembly Anti Money Laundering and Cyber Security Coalition has already commenced the process of enacting a cyber security law that will address all forms of internet crimes in the country permanently and Nigerians are eager to see the light of such a law soon. The coordinator of the coalition Hon. Bassey Etim who is also deputy chairman House of Representatives Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, told journalists recently that there has to be a law on cyber security with the hope of establishing a cyber security commission in the nearest future. He expressed fear over inadequate infrastructure to implement the e-payment system.
“In order to restore sanity, the National Assembly in the spirit of service to the nation is putting in place adequate legislative processes to combat cyber crime and other related ITC offences. This has also informed our resolve to continue to partner with major stakeholders to organize conferences and proffer lasting solution to some of the constraints associated with the deep economic sabotage”, he said.
While the e-payment system is capable of preventing misappropriation of funds and reduce corruption, there are attendant negative implications where internet fraud is concern. There is little doubt that cyber offences constitute threat to the new system and other investment opportunities in the industrial sector. Multi-nationals are scared of going into transactions electronically with Nigerians who are supposed to be partners in the sector.