By Joel Popoola
Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, but we are pretty old-fashioned when it comes to money.
Although many Nigerians are used to receiving money electronically from relatives overseas, at home the vast majority of people prefer physical money to digital payments and would rather queue up at a kiosk for cash than pay for something using their phone.
It’s not smart. And in the time of COVID-19, it’s not safe.
By 2025, almost two-thirds of Nigerians will own a smartphone, but right now only 6% of us use digital technology to make financial transactions.
In Kenya, meanwhile, the number is 73%
Digital payments save businesses and consumers time and money: think of the time and effort it would save Nigerians in remote rural communities from not having to travel to go to the bank!
More importantly for digital democracy campaigners like me, electronic money is much easier to keep track of, increasing accountability and transparency and reducing corruption and theft.
So why don’t we work towards becoming the first nation on earth to abolish cash?
This might sound like a ludicrous dream, but in the time of the coronavirus, it might not be as far-fetched as you think.
Reducing the handling of cash to a simple way of slowing the spread of this and other viruses – and social distancing is almost impossible in a kiosk or bank queue.
And Nigerians are getting used to the idea of digital payments. During the COVID-19 lockdown, many Nigerians had no choice but to switch to digital banking when bank branches were closed. And they liked it. There were even reports of shops refusing to take money.
Making the change to a cashless Nigeria would require intensive effort, but the chances such a move could pay for itself. When Mexico made state worker salary payments, social welfare and pensions electronic, it saved the equivalent of 491 billion Naira.
Then, there is also the informal economy.
According to the IMF, the Nigerian informal sector accounted for 65% of Nigeria’s 2017 GDP. A move away from a cash-in-hand culture could lead to a very helpful increase in the government’s tax revenue.
Nigeria is already making more progress towards becoming a cashless society than you might think.
The COVID-19 crisis also saw the government utilise digital-payment platforms to distribute financial support for those affected by the lockdown.
This followed on from earlier efforts to establish payment service banks, which see telecom companies permitted to provide financial services.
Other government targets could be achieved too. The payment service banks were one of the initiatives aimed at meeting targets set in 2012, for 80% of Nigerian adults to have a bank account by 2020. These ambitious targets have been missed (the figure is currently around 60%) but a 2015 report prepared for the G20, the world’s largest 20 economies, highlighted the potential of digitised payments to rapidly increase access to financial services.
The journey towards a cashless Nigeria would require significant government commitment and investment. But the government could start tomorrow by aiming to making all government payments, such as Conditional Cash Transfer, digital by default.
And doing so would be hugely beneficial for our democracy.
Physical cash is dirty money in more ways than one indeed.
Transparency and accountability are almost impossible to achieve with cash payments which are anonymous and untraceable. And this has huge implications when it comes to making sure public money is spent were it is supposed to be spent.
When the Indian government started making pension payments through digitally instead of using cash bribe demands almost halved. I’m sure almost every Nigerian would dearly love to see that here.
At the digital democracy campaign we are determined to improve accountability and transparency in Nigerian politics.
We have created a free app called Rate Your Leader, which allows voters to contact directly with their local elected representatives. The Rate Your Leader app helps politicians engage directly with people who elected them, helping them understand what matters most to the people who elect them, get important information directly to them and build relationships of trust with the electorate.
We did this because in 2020, democracy is digital. Communication is digital. Commerce is digital.
Our money should be digital too – not least in the interests of public health.
Far from being a fantasy, perhaps a cashless Nigeria is an idea whose time has arrived.
Joel Popoola is a Nigerian technology entrepreneur, digital democracy campaigner and is the creator of the Rate Your Leader app. He can be reached via @JOPopoola
PCP Congratulates Obaseki, Edo People on ‘Deserved’ Victory
By Eric Elezuo
The People’s Coalition Party (PCP) has congratulated the Governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki and the people of Edo State for the victory at polls during the just concluded governorship election.
The party’s message was contained in press statement signed by its chairman, Don Anthony Harmattan, and made available to PointBlank.ng.
The chairman noted that the victory has demonstrated the resilience of the Edo people and that votes must count in elections
“It is a demonstration of the will of the people to actualizing their dreams in the midst of oppressors, money bags and Political God fathers who take advantage of the weakness of Nigerians to rig their protegees and stooges into office. This election has proven that when people are united and resolute, no one can take their mandate away from them. Indeed it is a victory for our democracy,” the statement read.
The PCP sees Obaseki’s victory as an eye opener to what may likely happen in 2023 while asking Nigerians to tie the line of Edo People in flushing out politics based on godfatherism.
“I wish to let Nigerians know that with this defeat of oppression, extortion and God fatherism in Edo State, 2023 will be a year of victory for Nigerians. Nigerians must unite and toe the part of the Edo People to defend their votes,” the statement said.
The chairman also commended President Muhammadu Buhari ‘for being the first to congratulate Obaseki’ and encourage others to do likewise.
“Together, our democracy will be stronger and yield dividends for all Nigerians irrespective of tribe and religion,” the statement concluded.
Akin Fadeyi Foundation, ABUAD in New Partnership Against Rape, Cyberbully
Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti has partnered a non-governmental organisation, Akin Fadeyi Foundation, to fight sexual-based violence and cyberbullying.
The partnership was unveiled in a statement on Friday jointly signed by ABUAD Students’ Affairs Officer, Mr Babatunde Wahab, a lecturer at the institution, Dr Olumide Olugbemi-Gabriel, and the Founder/Executive Director, Akin Fadeyi Foundation, Mr Akin Fadeyi.
The statement is titled, ‘Afe Babalola partners FlagIt App to combat rape and cyberbully.’
Speaking on behalf of ABUAD President and Chancellor, Chief Afe Babalola, as well as the institution’s management, Wahab commended AFF’s FlagIt App for helping to contain the menace of sexual abuse and cyberspace criminality in general.
The FlagIt App is a mobile application developed by AFF to report corruption, particularly the activities of rapists and cyberbullies in society.
ABUAD decried that criminality among the youth was growing at an alarming rate, noting that emerging criminal tendencies and trends were being enabled by advancement in Information and Communications Technology and a corruption-ridden larger society.
“This is why we are excited to see the confidence and speed with which FlagIt rose to the occasion in support of the victims, who are now on the road to getting the needed closure and justice,” Wahab said.
“The onerous task you perform as well as the great efforts which you put into it have been experienced first-hand with your recent involvement in cases of coordinated cyberbullying attacks launched by some unscrupulous persons against some female students of our institution.”
Wahab extolled the manner the AFF and its FlagIt were handling the documentation of criminal tendencies and persons, offering at the same time ready evidence in the pursuit of justice.
“It is in view of the aforementioned that I, in my capacity as Students’ Affairs Officer together with my partner, Dr Olumide Olugbemi-Gabriel, who specialises among others in gender-based oppression and exploitation of women/girls shall be glad to partner with your foundation to stem the rising tide of criminal offences, especially domestic violence, sexual assaults and all forms of cybercrime within and outside ABUAD,” he said.
In his remarks, Fadeyi described the partnership with ABUAD as “a very exciting development.”
He said, “Since we launched the FlagIt App as a mobile application to report corruption, we’ve been uncovering the nefarious activities of rapists and cyberbullies in our society. This has been accompanied by such audacious impudence of trading with or threatening to expose explicit pictures of victims who attempt to resist the pressure of blackmail. This is another troubling element of our systemic decay as a nation that we have confronted swiftly.
“This partnership with Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti bears testimony to the traction our activities have gained and we indeed commend the Chancellor, Aare Afe Babalola; the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Smaranda Olarinde, the Students’ Affairs Officer, Mr Babatunde Wahab, and Dr Olumide Olugbemi-Gabriel for their unwavering commitment to working with us to stamp out gender-based violence and exploitation of women/girls in ABUAD and the nation as a whole.”
How Hushpuppi laundered U.S. Unemployment Benefits – FBI
Fresh evidence from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has revealed how Ramon Abbas, popularly called Hushpuppi, a Nigerian Instagram sensation, was involved in laundering unemployment benefits meant for citizens of the United States.
The scheme is one of the insurance programmes provided for workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own and meet certain other eligibility requirements. The joint state-federal programme provides cash benefits to these workers.
Hushpuppi, who was arrested in UAE over money laundering and cyber fraud allegations, is currently facing charges in the U.S.
He is accused of facilitating computer intrusion, Business Email Compromise (BEC) fraud and money laundering and has been arraigned in an American court in California. His trial begins on October 13.
He pleaded not guilty to the four counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering conspiracies, international money laundering and engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity.
Nevertheless, in the affidavit filed on September 14, with the United States District Court, Central District of California, Andrew John Innocenti, an FBI agent trained on foiling cybercrime indicted Mr Abbas in the outcome of his investigation.
Mr Innocenti said he discovered that Hushpuppi, using his email address, registered on a website whizzlog.com (“Whizzlog”) which is a marketplace for buying US Bank Logs and money laundering.
He said although, based on his training, sophisticated cybercriminals do not use their personal email address in registering on such websites but Hushpuppi did.
“ABBAS email address contained registration contamination from Whizz Log. It also contained numerous confirmations and receipts of bank logs he purchased. One of such messages read “Your order was successful. You have purchased (the “Financial Institution”) bank log with a balance of $9,839.44. Purchase Price: $955. The bank log details are in your account. Login to your Whizz Log account to view.”
“From the example above. I observed ABBAS buys a bank log with a balance of over S9,000 for as low as $900. This prompted me to visit the website whizzlog.com for more findings.”
After creating an account, the FBI agent discovered that Whizz Log sells only accounts which have been used to claim unemployment benefits. “Hackers who have claimed unemployment benefits of victims in the United States sell them off in bulk on Whizz Log.”
The prices of bank logs on Whizz Log range from $600 to S1,000 and balance in accounts sold ranges from $4,000 to as high as $12,000, he noted.
For easier payment, the bank logs are available for purchase instantly and payment is made using Bitcoin.
“Cyber criminals who purchase the bank logs can launder the money off through various means. The favorite means on Whizz Log is to buy Bitcoins with the balance in the bank log Whizz Log specifies if a bank log is “BTC Compatible” or not.
“Based on my training and experience, a bank account is “BTC Compatible” if you can buy Bitcoins from within the bank log. Some banks allow clients to directly purchase Bitcoins from their online bank account. Such banks are “BTC Compatible”. A buyer of a “BTC Compatible” bank log would login to the account, navigate to services provided by the bank and select to buy Bitcoins. He can use the whole balance in the account to buy Bitcoins. The Bitcoins will be sent to the criminal within minutes.”
While going through one of the bank accounts bought on the website, Mr Innocenti found that the account was recently opened.
“All the credits into the account were from the Department of Unemployment Assistance totaling $7,302.15,” he stated.
Since Mr Abbas had pleaded that he should be prosecuted with complaints rather than a grand jury indictment, this new evidence will be added to the previous ones.
If found guilty and convicted, the popular Instagram sensation could spend the next 20 years in prison.