Sierra Leone

  • NDC National Chairman makes a false claim about West African countries on inflation

    Claim: Chairman of National Democratic Congress, Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo, claims that Ghana and Nigeria are the only countries with double-digit inflation in West Africa.

    DUBAWA has analyzed data from the Statistical offices of some West African countries and has found out that at least The Gambia and Sierra Leone are among countries in the sub-region that currently have a double-digit inflation rate, apart from Ghana and Nigeria.

    Full Text

    The National Chairman of the National Democratic Congress, Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo, has rejected the government’s assertion that the war between Russia and Ukraine is a contributing factor to the country’s economic downturn.

    The Ghana Statistical Service has announced that the country’s year-on-year inflation rate for May 2022 surged to 27.6%, up from the 23.6% recorded in April. 

    Although the government’s statistician, Prof. Samuel Kobina Annim, has said that the effects of the war in Ukraine are now telling on Ghana’s inflation, Mr. Ofosu-Ampofo disagrees.

    In an interview on Ekosiisen, a programme on Accra-based Asempa 94.7FM, the former Eastern Regional Minister claimed that the situation was largely different among other West African countries.

    Mr. Ofosu-Ampofo whilst making the claim on Asempa 94.7FM.

    He insists that the country’s rising inflation rate cannot be blamed on the Russia-Ukraine war as Ghana together with Nigeria are the only countries in West Africa with double-digit inflation.

    “What is happening in the world? When you look at the countries in West Africa, and you consider their inflation rates, aside from Nigeria with an inflation rate of about 16%, all the remaining have single-digit inflation. Our (Ghana’s) inflation is heading to 28%. Therefore, there is no basis to say that something strange is happening which is why things are getting out of hand,” he said in the Akan language.

    Mr. Ofosu-Ampofo’s claim can be found between minutes 1:44:38 to 1:45:03 of the interview which was streamed live on the Facebook page of Asempa 94.7FM.

    Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Ghana’s inflation rate for January 2022 was 13.9%.

    Source: Ghana Statistical Service – May 2022 Consumer Price Index and Inflation

    Verification

    To investigate the claim, DUBAWA relied on data from the national statistical office of some West African countries that have been mentioned in media reports to have rising inflation rates.

    An April 2022 article published by Business Insider Africa mentioned Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria, as among several others in Africa that are “expensive to live in due to high inflation.”

    Following this lead, we first checked with Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics. In its April 2022 Consumer Price Index Report (Page 8), it was indicated that “In April 2022, the consumer price index, (CPI) which measures inflation increased to 16.82 percent on a year-on-year basis.”

    Data from Statistics Sierra Leone (Page 2) also indicated that the country’s “annual National Consumer Price Inflation (year-on-year) for April 2022 stood at 22.44%”

    On Page 8 of the report from Statistics Sierra Leone, the inflation rates of some selected West African countries were presented. Among these countries was The Gambia.

    In the case of The Gambia, it was reported that its inflation rate for April 2022 was 11.69%.

    This was confirmed when DUBAWA checked The Gambia Consumer Price Index for April 2022 (Page 3).

    Source: Statistics Sierra Leone – Consumer Price Index April 2022 Report (Page 6)

     Below are the inflation rates of the four West African countries since January 2022.

    CountryJanuaryFebruaryMarchApril May
    Ghana13.9%15.7%19.4%23.6%27.6%
    Nigeria15.60%15.70%15.92%16.82%N/A
    Sierra Leone16.65%17.59%22.06%22.44%N/A
    The Gambia7.81%8.35%8.20%11.69%N/A

    Conclusion

    The claim by Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo that Ghana and Nigeria are the only countries with double-digit inflation rates in West Africa is false. From our findings, at least Sierra Leone and The Gambia are among the countries that currently have a double-digit inflation rate.

  • Circumventing the deceitfulness of cyber scams

    Daniel Olugola was a father in need. A father, who was trying to solicit financial help from social media to help pay for the many surgeries and treatment for his daughter who was diagnosed with a sinonasal tumor. Yet, he became the victim of online scammers who took advantage of his situation and diverted the funds into their personal accounts. An unfortunate situation of money that could have otherwise been sent to him to pay for his daughter’s treatments, never reaching him. 

    His daughter died some months later. 

    Not all victims of online scams may be in situations like Mr. Olugola’s. In more recurring situations, money is not denied to you, it is rather extorted from you. 

    Besides the unfortunate incident of Daniel Olugola that Dubawa reported on, we have had to equally report on different manifestations of scams such as scholarship application links surfacing across social media platforms of West African countries Dubawa has a presence in (Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, and Liberia). These scholarships are purported to be from reputable institutions, including the Commonwealth seen on both Ghana and Nigeria social media platforms; the University of Oslo and Abu Dhabi University seen on Nigeria social media platforms, and the University of Western Australia seen on Liberia social media platforms – all within the same period of time.

    Another kind of scams Dubawa has had to report on are mass-market scams purporting to be from telecommunication group, MTN (here and here), the World Health Organisation, online stores such as Melcom (here and here) and Jumia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and food and beverage companies such as Nestle and Coca-Cola (surfacing in both Ghana and Liberia social media platforms).

    Most of these sites were dishonestly offering what they would never deliver, in return for people’s personal data, passwords, and ultimately, money. 

    Falling prey…

    Sometimes these scams are so glaringly deceptive that you wonder why people fall victim. It is for such concerns, that an American-based neuropsychology professor, Stacy Woods, together with some colleagues, conducted research to understand this phenomenon. The research article, which was featured on the BBC highlighted some common stratagems observed to be used by scammers that made some people easy pickings for them, and Dubawa noticed a similar trend with scams in Ghana which have been reported on. Popular among those found in the study were:

    1. Familiar brands: In order to sound credible and assume to have some authority, many scammers use a fairly well-known, legitimate, or local business to persuade people. 

    (Little wonder in Ghana, MTN and Melcom, which seem to be among the top preferred companies for scammers, are always seemingly doing some sort of  give-away)

    1. Motivation: In their quest to arouse an urgent desire in people to participate, many scammers make their offers time-bound. 
    2. Legitimacy: Some scammers are also observed to use diction that suggests seriousness in business by using legal terms to further persuade people that the offer is legitimate. Others also had website interfaces that are colourful and attractive with photos of money, prizes, and details of purported previous winners.

    The study also included an experiment to identify consumer habits and their susceptibility to scams. It found that people who did not mind complying in unknown scams gave their reasons to be that the potential benefits outweighed the risks of loss for them, adding that loneliness, low income, and inadequate numeracy skills were factors that also influenced their willingness to participate. 

    Noticeable in the demographics of people who were usual prey for such scams, as the study found, were people with fewer years of education and in some cases, younger people.

    As observed by Dubawa, particularly about the influx of fake scholarship websites, it is the season (July to October) when most school years are opening. It is found to be an opportune time for scammers to equally gush out their fake scholarship offers given the appropriateness of such a period to the needs of most students. 

    Notwithstanding, there seems to be a specific motivation and target for most of these scams – money. Hence, it is becoming commonplace now to see scammers lure people into participating in many online activities that are, in most cases, non-existent. 

    No matter what strategy it takes, whether it is a make-believe promo, fake purchase deal, scholarship scheme, or job offer, let’s call them for what they really are – defrauding and cyber crimes – and they are punishable by law. 

    Laws are enacted to help you

    The complexities of cybercrimes and the anonymity that characterized the medium of criminality make it difficult sometimes to identify the culprits. Notwithstanding, when a culprit is identified, there are legal provisions in place for such fraudsters in Acts of Parliament, such as Act 29 of the Criminal Code 1960, Act 772 of the Electronic Transactions Act 2008, and Act 1038 of the CyberSecurity Act 2020.

    Criminal Code 1960, Act 29

    In Ghana, Act 29 of the 1960 Criminal Code does not condone any kind of fraud. For example, Section 16 of Chapter 2 which makes provision relating to fraud states that, 

    “For the purposes of any provision of this Code by which any forgery, falsification, or other unlawful act is punishable if used or done with intent to defraud, an intent to defraud means an intent to cause, by means of such forgery, falsification, or other unlawful act, any gain capable of being measured in money, or the possibility of any such gain, to any person at the expense or to the loss of any other person.”  

    Electronic Transactions 2008, Act 772

    Even more specifically, the Electronic Transactions Act 772 caters to cyber offenses and their consequent charges, like the Criminal Code 1960.  Pertaining to the effect of the cybercrime committed, it makes provisions for offenses committed via electronic means.

    These include stealing, appropriation, representation, attempt to commit crimes, conspiracy, forgery, access to a protected computer, obtaining electronic payment medium falsely, general offense for fraudulent electronic fund transfer and general provision for cyber offenses. Other offenses are unauthorised access or interception, unauthorised interference with electronic record, unauthorised access to devices, unlawful access to stored communications, unauthorised access to a computer programme or electronic record, unauthorised modification of computer programme or electronic record, unauthorised disclosure of access code and causing a computer to cease to function. 

    Cyber Security Act 2020, Act 1038

    The Cyber Security Act 2020, Act 1038 establishes a Cyber Security Authority which is responsible for regulating cybersecurity activities in the country. Additionally, it establishes the National Computer Emergency Response Team (NCERT) which is responsible for responding to cybersecurity incidents, coordinating responses to cybersecurity incidents amongst public institutions, private institutions, and international bodies. The NCERT is also responsible for overseeing the Sectoral Computer Emergency Response Team (SCERT), which has oversight of cyber security in designated sectors such as public, banking and financial, energy and utilities, national security, academic, health, transportation, telecommunication, and military sectors in the country.

    The Act also allows for a cybersecurity point of contact for the general public – individuals and institutions who are not affiliated to a particular sector – to report cybersecurity incidents. 

    Section 48 stipulates that,

    (1) The Authority shall establish a cybersecurity incident point of contact to facilitate (a) reporting of a cybersecurity incident by the general public; and (b) international co-operation in cybersecurity matters. 

    (2) An institution that is not affiliated to a designated Sectoral Computer Emergency Response Team, shall report a cybersecurity incident to the National Computer Emergency Response Team through the cybersecurity incident point of contact established under subsection (1). 

    (3) An individual may report a cybersecurity incident to the National Computer Emergency Response Team through the cybersecurity incident point of contact established under subsection (1).

    Regulatory bodies exist to help you

    Dubawa spoke to the Director-General of the National Information Technology Agency (NITA), Mr. Richard Okyere-Fosu, who explained the functionality of NITA in helping citizens report cybercrimes. 

    He said that being the agency responsible for implementing Ghana’s IT policies, NITA also serves as an Emergency Response Team and is committed to ensuring the integrity of websites in the country. He added that in consultation with Ghana Domain Registry (which is the agency responsible for registering all websites in the country), any website whose domain is found not registered and consequently guilty of cyber offenses can be taken down when reported.  Mr. Okyere-Fosu emphasised that this is provided for in the Electronic Transactions Act 772 which allows for blocking, filtering, and taking down of illegal content. 

    Section 87 of the Act states that,

     (1) The Authority may, on the order of a court, authorise a service provider to block, filter or take down illegal content and phone numbers used for a malicious purpose which seeks to undermine the cybersecurity of the country. 

    (2) The grounds for blocking, filtering, and taking down illegal content and phone numbers include 

    (a) the protection of national security; 

    (b) the protection of children; 

    (c) the public safety; 

    (d) the prevention or investigation of a disorder or a crime; 

    (e) the protection of health; 

    (f) the protection of reputation or the rights of an individual; 

    (g) the prevention of the disclosure of information received in confidence; 

    (h) compliance with a legal order; or 

    (i) any other ground that the Authority may determine

    Mr. Okyere-Fosu further revealed that NITA had in past services, focused more on its operations for government and now, given the rise of fraudulent websites, is purposed to equally focus on its regulatory duties for citizens.

    He advised that there are several agencies, of which NITA is included, in place to handle the investigations of cybercrime, and citizens should not hesitate to report such incidents to the Cyber Security Authority. 

    “Use Cyber Security to report any incident. They have a good response team who will handle it with all relevant agencies such as BOG, data protection, or NCA, depending on where the crime is being committed. They will investigate it and come out with the necessary penalty,” Mr. Okyere- Fosu said.

    He, however, cautioned that cyber security was not only the responsibility of cyber security agencies but individuals also had a part to play in their safety online.

    How you can help yourself

    Kaspersky, which is an Internet security store and offers cyber security services, lists nine simple ways to protect yourself online. They are:

    1. Update software and operating system frequently to be protected with the latest security offers for your computer.
    2. Use anti-virus or a comprehensive internet security solution and ensure it is updated to prevent your computer from cyber attack.
    3. Use strong passwords and do not record them anywhere 
    4. Do not open attachments in spam emails 
    5. Do not click on links in spam emails or untrusted or unfamiliar websites
    6. Do not give personal data via electronic means such as phone or email unless the security of the means of communication has been established.
    7. Contact companies about suspicious offers before indulging via their contact lines from their official websites.
    8. Be cautious with clicking on unfamiliar URLs 
    9. Monitor your bank statements  

    Additionally, a Secure Life –  an organisation that offers security services – gives some tips on how to identify a fake website by showing that: 

    1. The address bar matters. It reveals that the ‘s’ in https:// means ‘secure’ which further means that the website has encryption for data transfers and is protected from hackers. However, a website showing http:// without an s does not always mean it is a scam, except that it may not be as secure and users should be cautious entering personal data on such sites.
    2. The domain name matters. Scammers like to imitate established brand domain sites by changing single alphabets therefore caution must be taken before navigating such sites.
    3. The domain age matters. How long a website has been created can be checked to further confirm suspicions. This is helpful in confirming sites such as those maliciously created around school reopening dates to chance on scholarship offers. Whois Lookup domain is a tool helpful in assessing who a domain is registered to, its location, and how long it’s been in existence. 

    Other tips include watching for grammatical errors, identifying the provision of reliable contact information, the accessibility of using only secure online payment options, thinking through offers that are too good to be true, and running a virus scan on the site with the help of free resources such as IsitHacked?, VirusTotal, PhishTank, and FTC ScamAlerts

    As Mr. Okyere-Fosu advised, “Cybersecurity is also a personal responsibility. Ensure you take good care of your cybersecurity hygiene.’’

  • PRESS RELEASE: DUBAWA OFFICIALLY LAUNCHES IN SIERRA LEONE

    West Africa’s verification and fact-checking platform, Dubawa, is set to launch a new country office in Sierra Leone. 

    The launch will take place on July 13, 2021 at the Country Lodge Hotel in Freetown.

    A project of the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ with a core mandate to restore the eroding trust of newsrooms, Dubawa’s mission is to institute a culture of truth and verification in public discourse and journalism through strategic partnerships between the media, government, civil society organizations, technology giants and the public.

    “We are super excited at this development, which is one element in the broad mission of Premium Times’ strategy to help deepen the primacy of ethics in governance, in policy making and in journalism within the ECOWAS subregion,”  Executive Director of PTCIJ, Dapo Olorunyomi, said.

    As part of activities for the official launch, Dubawa will also train journalists and bloggers in fact-checking skills, digitals tools, Right to Information laws and data journalism.

    “We are setting up shop in Sierra Leone with the hopes of tackling misinformation and disinformation through rigorous fact-checking, media literacy and research,” Oluwasin Alagbe, Programme Director of PTCIJ also said.

    Currently, Dubawa has been holding successful annual fellowships for journalists, fact checkers and researchers in The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone to equip fellows with skills in fact-checking and verification in combating the widespread regime of misinformation in the West African sub-region and to also contribute to knowledge around information disorder in the subregion.

    First launched in Nigeria as the country’s first indigenous fact-checking platform in 2018, Dubawa expanded its programme to Ghana in 2019 and Sierra Leone in 2020 in a bid to promote accountability and democracy across the West African region. Dubawa currently also has a presence in Liberia and the Gambia.

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