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ECOWAS Set to Combat Cybercrimes

  • Peter Clottey

Heads of state and members of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) pose for a photograph after attending the 39th ECOWAS Summit in Nigeria's capital Abuja March 23, 2011.

Heads of state and members of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) pose for a photograph after attending the 39th ECOWAS Summit in Nigeria's capital Abuja March 23, 2011.

A spokesman for the Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS] says justice ministers have unanimously agreed on a common legal mechanism to combat cybercrimes in the sub-region.

Communications director Sonny Ugoh, said his organization will also cooperate with the rest of the international community to address the growing “menace” in the region.

“We are familiar with cases that have become synonymous with what we call 419, which is [Nigeria’s] penal code under which such crimes fall in the case of some member states,” said Ugoh.

Ugoh’s comments follow a two-day regional meeting that focused on the framework for the definition, identification and penal repression of offences and criminal acts committed through the internet.

The justice ministers also agreed on a seven-chapter memorandum. It contains appropriate sanctions that must be applied, specific rules of procedure as well as the modalities for legal cooperation among member states when offences are committed.

Ugoh said ECOWAS is putting structures in place to punish perpetrators of cybercrimes in the region.

“Wherever you are, as soon as you commit an offense using the instrumentality of existing protocol on cooperation and criminal matters, people can be extradited to face the rigors of the law,” he said.

Credit card fraud is reportedly on the rise in some African countries including Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa’ with losses estimated at billions of dollars.

A 2008 cyber security report stated that cybercrimes in Africa is growing faster than any other continent. Some experts also say government institutions have not been effective in combating cybercrimes.

In 2009, the ECOWAS parliament backed the memorandum.

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