The Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) releases communique at the National Stakeholders Meeting on Digital Rights in Nigeria

The Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) releases communique at the National Stakeholders Meeting on Digital Rights in Nigeria

As part of the Centre for Information Technology and Development’s (CITAD) efforts to create awareness on the importance of digital rights in Nigeria, CITAD held a National Stakeholders meeting on Digital Right. It is parts of the efforts to address the challenges associated with digital rights issues and abuses in the country.

This is to ensure the speedy passage of the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill after the President refused assent in 2019. The meeting consisted of relevant stakeholders from MDAs, Media, Civil Society Organizations and other human rights defenders. The objectives were to:

i. Deepen stakeholders’ understanding of the importance and the need for the Digital Right in the country. ii. Discuss the way to speed up the passage of the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill by the National Assembly; iii. Galvanize voices that will advocate for the passage of the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill in the country;

After robust discussions and deliberations, the following observations were made: Ø Digital rights are extension of human rights; Ø Technology is affecting humanity in different ways and it is providing unique platforms that will ultimately revolutionize engagements from offline to online; Ø A large number of people in Nigeria are operating on the digital space; Ø Whenever election approaches, the political atmosphere becomes charged. Ø There are cases of citizens’ surveillance which is shrinking the digital space; Ø There is no known specific pronouncements by our courts on digital rights in Nigeria; Ø The traditional roles of the media in advocacy, reporting, investigation, documentation, agenda setting and analysis are still applicable to the issue of human rights as in the case of digital rights; Ø There is still a wider knowledge gap on digital rights in Nigeria; Ø Nigeria’s economy is also evolving digitally as other parts of the world.  

Participants made the following recommendations:

Ø Nigeria Police Force should be equipped with required skills to handle cases of crimes committed against citizens online; Ø Violators of rights online should be made to account for their actions; Ø There should be control on the import and export of surveillance technologies to stem the trend of digital authoritarianism; Ø There should be collaborations with critical stakeholders on digital literacy campaigns ; Ø Activists should brace up and rise up to ensure the right of citizens online is a priority; Ø Discussions on digital rights in Nigeria are narrow and stakeholders should extend the conversation to issues around control, data usage and content creation; Ø There is a need for the media to undertake advocacy and campaign for internet access and affordability which is critical in shaping discourse on digital rights; Ø There should be knowledge development on local production of digital tools and improved access; Ø MDAs such as the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) etc should be mainstreamed into digital rights conversations; Ø There is need for stakeholders to intensify engagements with lawmakers. Ø There is the need for government to take concrete measure to promote digital inclusion so as those who are currently left behind could also have access to digital rights Ø Call on government to provide a policy on community networks that will empower citizens and communities to address their connectivity needs by themselves.

 Stakeholders therefore suggested the following action points: Ø Digital rights activists and other stakeholders should vigorously champion the review/repeal of laws that promote digital authoritarianism; Ø Engage legislators with a view to concluding and passing the bill on digital rights currently on the floor of the National Assembly Ø There is a need to engage with candidates in the conversation on Digital Rights and Freedom Bill as we approach elections; Ø Media to engage technology not only as consumers or users but as critical gatekeepers; Ø Digital Rights advocacy effort should include rural areas and marginalized groups.

 The communique was  Signed by Dr Abdulhamid Abdullahi, ABU Zaria Suleiman Mande, CISLAC Osai Oijgho, Amnesty International Angela Uzoma-Iwuchukwu, Country Director, Avocats Sans Frontieres France Ali Sabo, Centre for Information Technology and Development