Cynthia, Cyber-criminals and conscience

The tragic news went viral on radio, print and electronic media as well as the Internet of the brutal murder of Cynthia Osokogu, a retired Major General’s daughter, a post-graduate student of Nassarawa State University and up-coming merchant. It made the rounds that the star-crossed lady was last seen on July 22, 2012 before being lured to Lagos via BBM chat on a purported business deal only to be raped, strangled and murdered in cold blood by alleged cyber-criminals. This surely, is a heavy sword in the hearts of Cynthia’s parents, siblings, friends and the entire nation even as her funeral is slated for September 7, as well the second appearance of the four suspects in court on October 3, 2012, respectively.

One does not need to know the Lady in question before one opines that her sad end which was occasioned by suspected net-criminals, calls for a collective responsibility and urgent steps to nip cyber-crimes in the bud. But first, what is cyber-crime? Simply put, cyber-crime is computer crime.

The Online Free Wikipedia defines it as, “…any crime that involves a computer and a network. The computer may have been used in the commission of a crime, or it may be the target.” It conceives net-crime as the criminal exploitation of the Internet. All who use the media of Mass Communication should realize that crimes like this include; the misuse of the computer (sending impossible viruses so you could buy anti-virus produced by same criminals), traditional crime as in fraud or illegal gambling and sharing illegal or stolen information. (Cf., …).

Cyber-crimes are, “offenses that are committed against individuals or groups of individuals with a criminal motive to intentionally harm the reputation of the victim or cause physical or mental harm to the victim directly or indirectly, using modern telecommunication networks such as Internet (chat rooms, emails, notice boards and groups) and mobile phones.” (Cf., Halder, D., & Jaishankar, K (2011) Cyber crime and the victimization of women: Laws, Rights, and Regulation., Hersey, PA, USA: IGI Global). Cyber criminals indulge in information cracking and hacking, child pornography and copy right infringement.

One temptation is to underestimate the devilish potentials of cyber-crime/criminals. The attitude of many a Nigerian is, “how does it concern me? I don’t own a computer, I only make calls with my hand set; I am not on Facebook, Twitter, email, LinkedIn and other such social utilities.” Read this please: In an article captioned “Nigerian Cyber criminals target smartphones users now, dated August 16th by one Vinay Madhav, TNN in The Times of India, the writer confesses, “now Nigerian cyber criminals are arriving in new avatars – targeting your smartphones. The spammers offer a solution to those who wish to eavesdrop on other’s phones.” This is to tell the reader the level people have gone to criminalize our digital world.

This description is nothing but apt of the nightmare of this innocent victim. The writer believes many Nigerians have fallen prey to this IT ‘evil-geniuses.’ Recently, I was very busy so I hadn’t time to be going on Facebook, tweeting or emailing. To my greatest surprise, I started receiving phone calls from my friends; “I have sent the recharge card. Did you receive it?” I was shocked to my bone marrow because I had not asked anyone for anything. As I was attempting to go online, I got a call that I have not recovered from!

A friend-caller said, I got a message from you asking for airtime and as soon as I replied, “who are? I know Father cannot ask me for a thing like this,” the person went offline. Please check your Facebook chats.” I started sweating and immediately went to my Facebook account. Guess what? Access denied. I tried my email, an effort in futility. To cut the long story short, my two accounts were hacked and passwords changed. Calls came from seven friends who had sent airtime worth seven thousand to my ‘pseudo friend’ who claimed he had very urgent international calls to make. The rest is history…

If one may ask, where is the place of conscience, which St. Thomas Aquinas calls sinderesis, “a natural power of the soul, set in the highest part thereof, moving and stirring it to good, and abhorring evil”? It appears we have thrown integrity to the waste bin, sacrificed morality on the altar of materialism and popularity has taken the place of principle. What an e-world!

The effects of cybercrime are all around us namely, trespassing on:

ü  The integrity of individuals

ü  Privacy and confidentiality

ü  Businesses and financial health of both individuals and corporate organizations

ü  National and international security

This is where urgent steps need to be taken by the government and well-meaning persons to bring this social menace to a halt. Be it yahoo, 419, IT super-intelligence, or simply cyber gimmicks, these crimes must be stopped. The forceful death of this lady should prompt government to pass an urgent executive bill for Cybercrime legislation. The office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice should, in this matter, make haste while the sun shines. It would be re-called that the National Parliament has introduced six similar private member bills without seeing the light of day. One hopes that this one does not meet the same fate!

One wonders whether Senator David Mark’s recent call, at a two-day retreat for Press Corps in Umuahia, Abia State, to check the use of social media will still be relevant to this loss; but far from proscribing (social media) it as an unwitty action like that in a democracy that preaches freedom of information, will be heading for the rocks.

We need cyber security or protection and this could only come about with advancement in our IT technology and borrowing a leaf from experts. With Cybercrime legislation, IT intelligence, security expertise, listening to the voice of conscience, perhaps cyber criminals would be out of business. We must not shy away from the issue of ensuring that our youth are gainfully employed and directed to use their ingenuity for the good of all. Parents should check the kind of social utilities their children use and how, where they go to and the type of friends they keep. Watch out! That Blackberry might just be Black burial. God forbid!

Kudos to the police and security agencies for being on top of the situation namely, spotting the supposed killers of this young woman of Delta State extraction. While we pray for the peaceful repose of her soul and repentance of the suspects and their likes, more should be done to save lives, wealth and integrity!


Fr. Justine John DYIKUK, a Catholic Priest, Freelance writer/poet and Public Affairs Commentator writes from CIWA, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.


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