“You people in Lagos are enjoying, at least you have lots of stores using Point of Sales (POS) machines and accepting online transfers. Those of us in the North aren’t that lucky. We are compelled to pay with cash or nothing else. Having money before used to be the problem, but now it’s getting the cash to spend. It has not been funny here at all,” Shola Idowu (not real name) from Adamawa said.
The past few weeks had been a rollercoaster for Nigerians as regards access to cash for their daily activities. While states that are more technologically inclined dealt with failed transactions, delayed crediting of the receiver’s account, and possible hacking of their bank accounts, many people up North were completely caught in the web of ‘buying’ cash to survive.
Also Read: CBN Aims for 85% Financial Inclusion
Nigeria’s financial inclusion drive has been a conversation for years now and one would assume that the country is ready. The current situation as a result of the Naira redesign policy has shown otherwise as many fintech and financial institutions’ outlets and apps crashed under the sudden increased user demand.
According to the World Bank Group, financial inclusion means that individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs – transactions, payments, savings, credit, and insurance – delivered in a responsible and sustainable way. A transaction account serves as a gateway to other financial services, which is why people should be able to easily do this to store money and send and receive payments.
Recent data from the Nigerian Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS) states that active bank accounts in Nigeria increased from 122 million in 2020 to 133.5 million as of December 2021. This growth has been driven partly by the drive for financial inclusion which is for Nigerians to have access to banking services.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said the naira redesign policy is to promote financial inclusion and aid security agencies’ efforts in tackling insecurity. The apex bank also urged Nigerians to embrace alternative payment channels such as eNaira and internet banking. However, these alternative payment channels have not proven to be functional as many Nigerians are still stuck with cash transactions and the fear of losing their hard-earned money to hackers.
As Nigeria continues to push for financial inclusion drive, cybersecurity has become an increasingly crucial concern for experts in the field. With more people gaining access to digital financial services, the risk of cyber threats and attacks has grown significantly, potentially putting individuals’ financial information and transactions at risk.
According to McKinsey, Nigeria has over 200 fintech organisations aside from fintech solutions provided by banks and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). It is increasingly required for the country’s financial sector to prioritise cybersecurity as it is the most targeted sector for cyber-attacks.
Cybercrimes are criminal acts such as identity theft and bank fraud facilitated using the internet. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has consistently reported that about 70 per cent of attempted or successful fraud/forgery cases in the Nigerian banking system were perpetrated via electronic channels. As digital financial services become more widespread, cyber threats have also increased.
In 2020, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) reported a total of 2.3 million cyberattacks on Nigerian networks, up from 1.2 million the previous year. These attacks included phishing, malware, and ransomware, among other types of cyber threats.
In 2015, the Cybercrimes Act was passed into law to address a variety of offences – from ATM card skimming and identity theft to possession of child pornography. It imposes, for instance, seven years imprisonment for offenders of all kinds and additional seven years for online crimes that result in physical harm, and life imprisonment for those that lead to death. But the laws have not been enforced as expected.
Cybersecurity is a collective responsibility.
Hence, the need for more awareness of cybersecurity for consumers; capacity development for the executives, information technology, cybersecurity teams and every member of staff; as well as collaboration with the financial institutions and the Cybercrime Advisory Council to effectively combat cybercrime. Rather, all units must work in unison to build an effective cybersecurity defence, while working to earn and keep consumer trust.
The awareness should include the use of local media and languages to ensure that people in rural areas are also reached. There should also be an amendment to the 2015 Cybercrimes Act in line with current situations to strengthen collaboration and partnerships while ensuring due consideration to trust, consumer rights, and privacy protections.
The financial inclusion drive means increasing access to financial solutions and empowering the people living below the poverty level to boost national growth, development, and economic equality. While at this, the implementation of existing cybersecurity regulations should be further enhanced by the CBN and related stakeholders.