The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has underscored the significance of applying Information and Communication Technology (ICT) effectively in the battle against financial crimes.
The application of ICT can enable real-time surveillance, ensure regulatory compliance and secure data processing. The NCC also emphasised the importance of multidisciplinary and multi-stakeholder collaborations to address issues related to illicit financial flows in the country.
The executive vice chairman (EVC) of the commission, Dr. Aminu Maida delivered a speech at the 11th anniversary lecture series of RealNews Magazine in Lagos. During this event, he was inducted into the RealNews Hall of Fame in recognition of his outstanding contribution as the guest of honour. Maida stated that robust ICT systems play a critical role in preventing and investigating financial crimes, as well as mitigating the risks associated with virtual assets in financial markets.
The NCC’s director of public affairs, Reuben Muoka who represented Maida at the forum, defined financial crimes as “criminal activities involving transactions, abuse, misuse, deception or manipulation of financial systems for personal gain. These crimes encompass a wide range of offences, including insider abuse, money laundering, terrorism financing, embezzlement and various forms of fraud”. He pointed out that financial crimes not only have a significant economic and social impact but can also be linked to violent crimes resulting in loss of lives. Furthermore, these crimes pose threats to the integrity, trustworthiness, stability, security, safety and future of entities such as countries, enterprises, or individuals.
Maida informed the audience, which included representatives from the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) and other stakeholders, that the scope of financial crimes has expanded due to the increasing adoption of digital technologies, the emergence of new technologies and the often-transnational nature of these crimes.
The NCC chairman emphasised that as ICT systems become more complex, so do cybercriminal activities. Criminal actors take advantage of the inherent and emerging flaws in ICT systems, exploiting these flaws and causing harm. At the same time, technology must be harnessed to track the movement of illicit funds in and out of the country.
Maida highlighted the potential of advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to identify suspicious digital patterns indicative of crime. Partnerships with financial institutions allow data to be filtered to detect these suspicious patterns in real time, facilitating a proactive approach to crime prevention.
In the fight against financial crimes, innovative solutions such as blockchain, instant payments, artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics, regulatory technology solutions and automated procedures are being deployed. These technological tools have made it significantly easier to combat financial crime while developing a long-term strategy to address it.
Additionally, Maida explained that the NCC has established the Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT), a group of experts in the commission responsible for handling security incidents that can affect the operations of organisations and individuals. The commission has also incorporated biometric authentication in the use of telecom services and financial transactions, strictly enforcing compliance by licensees. Furthermore, the NCC enables digital forensics and has taken measures to ensure increased access to telecommunications services.
Maida stressed the importance of public education and understanding of internet safety to limit the risks associated with the spread of criminality via technology. He also emphasised the need for increased collaboration and international cooperation to tackle financial crime effectively. He further called for continued investment in ICT solutions and a multidisciplinary and multi-stakeholder strategy, which includes technology specialists, legal professionals, and legislators, as a critical approach to keeping up with emerging criminal methods.