Monthly Archives

August 2017

Nigerian Military’s Surveillance of Social Media Alarming- Paradigm Initiative 

By | Internet Freedom, Press Release

The report that the Nigerian military has commenced monitoring social media activity of Nigerians has been in the news in the past few days. This development might not be unconnected to the recent pronouncement by the Vice-President that hate speech will soon be considered an act of terrorism. President Muhammadu Buhari also spoke along this line saying when he spoke concerning some distressing comments he encountered on Nigerian social media during his long medical vacation in London.

The Director of Defence Information, Major General John Enenche, while speaking recently during an Interview session on Channels television, stated that “The activities of Nigerians on the social media are now being monitored for hate speech, anti-government and anti-security information by the military”.

He went further to state,

What are we doing? In the military, we are now taking on it more seriously than ever. We have our strategic media centres that monitor the social media to be able to sieve out and react to all the ones that will be anti-government, be anti-military, (and) be anti-security. We tackle them appropriately with appropriate responses. Ahead of that, we are also proactive. We have measures in place, scientific measures to be able to sieve this information and also to get the public and let them know that some of this information they are getting is not genuine are not true and their objective is an anti-corporate existence of this country.”

These sentiments expressed by the Defence spokesman was echoed by the Twitter handle @DefenseMonitor, which was widely assumed to be a communications outlet for the Defence headquarters. Thankfully, the Presidential Office for Digital Communications through their Twitter handle @DigiCommsNG has come out to denounce the @DefenseMonitor handle as fake.

As we wait for more facts to emerge, we at Paradigm Initiative are justifiably alarmed at this development and call on all other defenders of digital rights of Nigerians to join us in calling for caution. We contend that all measures taken to safeguard the security of Nigerians must also by default protect their digital rights such as privacy and freedom of expression online.

In response to these developments, ‘Gbenga Sesan, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, said, “The statement made by the Director of Defence Information during the Channels television interview is worrisome. More troubling is the inability of the Defence Headquarters in following the Presidential Office for Digital Engagement in denouncing the tweets by @DefenseMonitor – tweets which essentially echo the sentiments of the Director of Defence Information. Merely disowning the twitter handle is not enough, the military must assure us by its words and actions that it does not share the sentiment expressed by the suspended twitter handle”

Speaking further on this, the Director of Programmes of Paradigm Initiative, Tope Ogundipe, stated, “We urge for caution in light of this new development. While we await more information, the words of the Director of Defence Information and the sentiments echoed by the now denounced Twitter handle @DefenseMonitor are consistent with the experience of numerous Nigerians who have been arrested for exercising their right to freedom of expression online. We maintain that the digital rights of Nigerians must be respected irrespective of any security measure implemented by the government”.

Lending his voice to the debate, the Program Manager for Magoyi, Paradigm Initiative’s digital rights advocacy programme, Boye Adegoke, added, “This new development follows a noticeable trend in Nigeria, where policies and legislation like the Cybercrime Law have been made by the ruling class to silence the voices of ordinary Nigerians. In response to this, over the years Paradigm Initiative has organized workshops and roundtables to sensitive the public and policy makers on digital rights. We are also working alongside our partners to pass the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, which seeks to safeguard the human rights of Nigerians online, into law”.

Although Paradigm Initiative very much supports any effort taken to safeguard the security of Nigerians, we contend that they must have a basis in the rule of law and must have the appropriate legislative oversight. Paradigm Initiative, therefore, calls on the Defence Headquarters to join the Presidential Office for Digital Engagement in denouncing the viewpoints expressed on the @DefenseMonitor Twitter handle.

Paradigm Initiative will continue to work to defend the digital rights of Nigerians. Digital rights like privacy and freedom of expression are important components of modern societies and must not be sacrificed on the altar of national security.

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For more information on this topic, please contact Tomiwa Ilori via tomiwa.ilori@pinigeria.org.

Echoes From LIFE: Kayode Aina

By | L.I.F.E.

KAYODE AINA

After my secondary school education, I was idle as I had nothing to do. Once in awhile, I assisted my father with his carpentry work. But it was clear I had no interest in it

A friend of mine, Faruq Abdulrahman (2015D class), who attended the AjegunleLIFE training, told me about it. I realised how he had changed, he was not the same person after his training. He followed his passion which is fashion designing. I wanted to be like him, so I convinced my father to buy me the application form.Kayode Aina (1)

Before the program, I would visit my neighbour to learn a few things about computer but he wouldn’t have much time for me. Attending the AjegunleLIFE program has been a life-changing event in my life. I have always wanted to be a graphic designer and now I can design anything and I have also learnt how to write a business plan.

The ICT class gave me the necessary skills for my dream work and the entrepreneurship class taught me how to start a business and write a business plan. The life skill class helped me improve my communication skill and I’ve being able to work on my attitude.

Presently, I am seeking a graphic design/printing house where I can learn more about graphic designing.

PRESS RELEASE: Paradigm Initiative Joins Global Network Initiative

By | Internet Freedom, Press Release

We are pleased to announce that Paradigm Initiative has joined the Global Network Initiative (GNI) as the first-ever member organization from Africa.

This development was announced yesterday, August 24, by GNI in a statement posted on its website. Founded in 2008, The Global Network Initiative is an international multi-stakeholder group of internet and telecommunications companies, civil society organizations (CSOs) investors and academics, who have created a collaborative approach to protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy in the ICT sector. Company members include Google, Facebook and Microsoft while CSO members include Internews and Human Rights Watch.

Paradigm Initiative leads digital rights advocacy efforts in Nigeria and elsewhere in the African continent,” said GNI Executive Director Judith Lichtenberg. “We are delighted to bring their vital experience and perspectives into our expanding global platform to advance freedom of expression and privacy.”

“Paradigm Initiative’s membership in GNI strengthens our global reach, and is the result of GNI’s focused effort to bring in new participants from Global South countries,” Ms. Lichtenberg said.

Paradigm Initiative is a social enterprise that builds an ICT-enabled support system and advocacy for digital rights in order to improve livelihoods for under-served youth in Africa. In support of these aims, Paradigm Initiative runs two ICT training programs for youth and leads a coalition of civil society organizations working to tackle the challenges of internet freedom.

In 2016/17 Paradigm Initiative’s Executive Director, ‘Gbenga Sesan was a GNI-Internews Fellow. The GNI-Internews Fellowship Program supports digital rights advocates from the Global South to participate in GNI Board meetings, policy development and learning activities with a view to applying for full membership of GNI.

“We are excited to join GNI at a time when companies are stepping up their direct engagement with NGOs on the ground to promote privacy, freedom of expression and internet freedom,” said Paradigm Initiative Executive Director, ‘Gbenga Sesan.

This is a significant milestone for Paradigm Initiative as we step up our digital rights advocacy to cover more African countries.

Lessons in digital rights advocacy from the Kenyan 2017 Elections

By | ICT Policy

By Babatunde Okunoye

In an earlier blogpost, I had drawn the attention of the world to watch out for digital rights violations during 3 critical African elections in August – in Kenya, Rwanda and Angola. Digital rights violations such as Internet disruptions, social media clampdowns and arrests have been known to coincide with election time on the continent, as our 2016 Digital Rights in Africa report reveals. However, with the conclusion of both Presidential elections in Rwanda and Kenya earlier this month without incidents of digital rights violations reported in both countries, in retrospect, I wondered if we could have, with some confidence, predicted the outcomes anyway.

It turns out that perhaps that might have well been the case. Studying the countries which led the continent in digital rights violations in 2016, particularly through Internet disruptions, there seems to be a common thread which links them. Algeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Mali, Morocco, Uganda and Zimbabwe shut down the Internet or Internet applications in 2016. With the exception of perhaps Algeria, none of these countries have healthy democracies. Most have governments propped up against the will of majority of their population and have poor human rights records.

It becomes clear therefore that perhaps by joining forces with the wider human rights community – who strive for greater political participation, civil liberties and developmental goals, digital rights advocates can work with the long term strategy of achieving digital rights for all through the fostering of broader human rights and civil liberties.

 

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It is interesting to note that the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) has a mechanism to track the human rights climate globally. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United Nations gives country level assessments of the state human rights across the world. Digital rights advocates can tap into this to understand the general state of human rights in their regions, as a pointer to where digital rights abuses are likely to occur. This is because where other human rights like freedom of civil and political association are not respected, digital rights such as the right to freedom of expression, especially online, can’t be taken for granted either.

In the last four elections in Africa where the ruling governments did not shut down the Internet – In Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda and Kenya, there has been a recent history of regular democratic change of governments in 3 of those countries, demonstrating a deepening culture of healthy democratic practice. Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya have had successive, if not, perfect, changes of governments. And here I note “not perfect” because during the 2007 Kenya elections there was an Internet disruption but the country has moved on, learnt its lessons and produced a better outing in 2017 where human rights, including digital rights, were respected through the combined efforts of all the entire human rights (including digital rights) community. In particular, the example of the Kenyan ICT Action Network (KICTANet) working closely with other civil society actors in championing the ethical use of technology (including the Internet) during the Kenyan elections is praiseworthy and instrumental to the outcome in Kenya.

It is hoped this lesson isn’t lost on all as we work for the protection of digital rights in Africa.

 

 

Echoes From LIFE: Ekong Vivian

By | L.I.F.E.

I worked as a fashion designer before my AjegunleLIFE training. I was also preparing to take the JAMB UTME. My sister, Nancy Ekong (2016A class) told me about the program and all the benefits it presented.

I used the computer before my training, but not really for productive activities, while I was in secondary school; it used to be a game console for me as I had not realized other uses of the computer. I am naturally a reserved individual and also a shy person, but this training cracked my shell and I was able to develop good communications and interrelation skills with other students.

The LIFE skills classes and entrepreneurship development classes have improved my mindset with a positivist and business oriented one; as I now see life from a brighter perspective that I can make the best of my life irrespective of the community I live in, I realized that I could go out or in fact make it within the community no matter what.Ekonj Vivian (3)

Now that I have concluded my training, I am going to continue my fashion designing job as I await my tertiary entrance examination. I also want to revisit snail rearing business as I earlier opted out of due to my unserious attitude. Now, I want to take it more seriously and integrate my new entrepreneurial and financial readiness skills into it and see where it goes. Even when I gain admission, I still want to have my chains of businesses. I am really inspired to be the best I can, thank you Paradigm Initiative!!

Echoes From LIFE: Ademeso Josiah

By | L.I.F.E.

I concluded my secondary school education in 2014 after which I had been at home; I started teaching at a primary school nearby until I was capable of starting a coaching centre of my own. Bolarinwa Adams, a friend of mine and also an alumnus (2016B class) told me about the #LIFE program and I decided to try it out.

I had computer appreciation skills before the program; as I normally visited cybercafés to surf the net, watch videos and play online games but I have learnt new skills over this past ten (10) weeks. I learnt about Microsoft Office packages, Graphics designing (Adobe Photoshop), Web Designing (HTML, CSS, and JAVA). All these were not on my to-do or to-learn list before the program but I am glad I am now more proficient in computer usage.

The ICT aspect of the training improved and made me more technologically aware, the entrepreneurship classes have helped me develop a business mindset and possibilities of making it within the business environment. The LIFE skills classes helped a lot in my interpersonal relations and expression.

Ademeso Josiah (2)

I had an exciting experience recently when I had the opportunity to teach one of my friends who studied computer science in school how to design a proper website, as he said he only knew the theoretical aspect but needed to learn the practical aspect. I am so happy to have this new knowledge flowing through me; I almost feel I can do anything.

I plan to volunteer in the technical department of my church after the training while I wait to gain admission into a higher institution of learning. I will also like to work with an IT firm so that I can have more professional experience. I look forward to volunteering in training younger ones on computer usage and adaptability. Thanks to Paradigm Initiative for adding more value to my life.

Attacks on Free Speech as Political Terrorism

By | #PINternetFreedom, ICT Policy, Internet Freedom

By Adeboye Adegoke

“Everybody likes to get as much power as circumstances allow, and nobody will vote for a self-denying ordinance.” Lord Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, English Catholic historian, politician, and writer.
One would have thought that the above quote attributed to Lord Acton, which has been captured in another sense as “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” was only relevant to the military and despotic systems of Government, but recent happenings in Nigeria and other supposedly democratic climes have proven that those words are as relevant today as they were in the worst days of military and dictatorial government across the globe.

When the Cybercrimes Act 2015 was signed into Law by the erstwhile President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan at the twilight of his administration in 2015, there was a sigh of relief that Nigeria has finally been able to develop its own regulatory framework to tackle the menace of cybercrime. The enthusiasm could not be faulted given the bad reputation the country has had to grapple with as result of the activities of the famous cybercriminals popularly known as “Yahoo boys” and lately “Yahoo Plus”. That enthusiasm was however cut short when it became clear that this law has beyond anything else unleashed another form of terror on Nigerians even while the country grapples with conventional terrorism by Boko Haram. This terror, however, is about the suppression of core values of any democratic system, which includes freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is an important tenet of any democracy and the apparent suppression of voices of dissent or whistleblowers is nothing short of terrorism in another mode.

An attack on Free Speech is a form of terror and we must curse the darkness while we can. While the Nigerian Police refuted the claims by Chidi Odinkalu and others describing the shooting at a Catholic Church in Ozubulu in Anambra State on August 6, 2017, as an act of terror, the Police by inference unwittingly admitted that the trend of arrest of citizens over whistle blowing activity is an act of terror. Abayomi Shogunle , Head of Nigeria Police Rapid response unit argued on his twitter handle which he typically uses to address issues/complaints about the Nigerian Police, that an act of terror must be politically motivated. Given this line of thought, it is clear that even the Police in Nigeria agree that the political class have now resorted to terrorizing Nigerians for expressing opinions online. Several citizens are currently going through politically motivated prosecutions in the court. Two of those cases are highlighted here being the most recent experiences and considering the status of the actors involved in them.

It is no longer news that the Governor of Kogi state with the help of the Department of State Security services is currently prosecuting a civil servant. His offence, according to news reports, was posting the image of the Abuja residence of the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, using a drone camera. According to the Guardian Newspaper, He was said to have posted the pictures with a caption: “This building is owned by an individual in Kogi where hunger is the people’s first name” to highlight the affluence of the Governor while Government workers groan and struggle to survive over unpaid salaries and citizens live in abject poverty. The action, the prosecuting counsel who is also a senior legal officer with the State Ministry of Justice said, put “Governor Yahaya Bello and family into threat and harm to their property” and thereby urged the court to take cognizance of the offence of cyber stalking (relying on section 24 of the Cybercrimes Act 2015) against the accused. The action of the Kogi State Government to say the least is the most barbaric form of high-handedness by anyone in power and a total abuse of privilege by using the State Security Service funded by tax payers for an egoistic pursuit. Well, it must be noted that he has a co-traveller in Nigeria’s Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki.

In an Interview with Punch Newspaper, A 37-year-old primary school teacher in Kwara State, Biodun Baba, who was arraigned before a magistrates’ court in Ilorin for allegedly insulting Senate President Bukola Saraki on Facebook, recounts his ordeal after he reacted to a Facebook post of factional Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state, Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo on the  discharge and acquittal of the Senate President by the Code of Conduct Tribunal. He commented in the comment section as follows “Somebody believes that he is above everybody, he is not above the judgment of God. If Saraki has been discharged by the CCT, has he been discharged by God?” Two officials of the DSS came and dragged him to their office in Ilorin. They gave him a form to write an undertaking that he will never abuse the Senate President again. It didn’t stop there; he was taken to court but was lucky to be defended by a group of lawyers who worked pro-bono to defend him in Court.

The cases involving Bukola Saraki and Governor Yahaya Bello are only 2 of many of such occurrences in Nigeria lately. Paradigm Initiative documented at least 8 of such cases in 2016 alone its Digital Rights in Africa annual report for 2016 and there has been at least 10 of such cases in 2017. If nothing else, the two cases above represent the most recent form of barbaric attacks on free speech by the Nigeria Political class but nothing of a departure from the pattern of previous documented cases.

Drafters of the Cybercrime Act 2015, their intention notwithstanding, have successfully played into the hands of agents of domination, intolerance and leaders who will rather oppress than protect the citizens that elected them. This has been a pattern in the last 2 years and it will as a matter of fact increase as the 2019 election draws closer. I hate to opine that a law which was supposed to help curb the scourge of cybercrime in Nigeria has hardly done so but has been the tool of oppression in the hand of the powerful. Unfortunately, this has been the case and there is no end in sight for the abuse and oppression being perpetrated by the political class and the powerful in connivance with security agencies.

This article should not be seen as an attempt to demonize certain political actors but to challenge the system and frameworks that encourage and allows the oppression of fellow citizens to be possible. In the words of the French republican poet and politician, Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine, “It is not only the slave or serf who is ameliorated in becoming free… the master himself did not gain less in every point of view,… for absolute power corrupts the best natures (Translated from his original work in French)”. Therefore we shouldn’t be looking at demonizing the actors but at correcting the system and frameworks that make abuse possible.

Last year, Paradigm Initiative together with Media Rights Agenda and Enough is Enough went to court to challenge the constitutionality of section 24 of the Cybercrimes Act 2015, a lawsuit which has now reached the appeal stage at the Federal Appeal Court. As concerned citizens and civil society, we can only hope and urge the court to expedite the hearing and give judgment in the interest of democracy and the rule of law.  Also, a member of the National Assembly Senator Buhari Abdulfatai representing Oyo state at the Nigerian Senate has sponsored a Bill to repeal and re-enact the Cybercrime Act 2015. The Bill, SB 450: Cyber Crime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act 2015 (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2017 has only been read once on the floor of the Senate and the content is yet to be made public by the National Assembly (This represents another lacuna in the law making process in Nigeria whereby Bills being discussed by the National Assembly are not accessible to citizens). The public hearing for this Bill whenever it happens presents an opportunity to address the sections of this Bill currently being exploited by political gladiators to oppress opposing voices.

 

Adeboye Adegoke (@adeboyeBGO) is a Digital Rights Advocate and works with Paradigm Initiative.

A Look at Whistleblower Protection Policies in Nigeria

By | #PINternetFreedom, ICT Policy, Internet Freedom

By Adeboro Odunlami

The Whistleblowing Programme by the Ministry of Finance commenced in December 2016 by an announcement made by Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, the Minister of Finance. The Ministry, in setting this Programme in motion, merely made an announcement and released a FAQ document which purported to answer reactive questions. The FAQ document has since then been the only available document which purports to answer glaring questions as to the protection of the private data of whistleblowers under this Programme. Although the senate at its plenary session on 8th June 2017 passed the Witness Protection Programme (Establishment, etc.) Bill, the Bill is technically not yet law.

In reviewing the bit of information which has been put out on the subject matter, it is obvious that the Ministry has not averted its mind to:

a. The difference between public sector and private sector whistleblowing: The protection of whistleblowers in banks and other private/quasi-private institutions should be differentiated from the Ministry of Finance’s. This is because while the former may deal primarily with curbing loss of employment and workplace victimization, the latter must, in addition, deal with protection of life, property and freedom from government intimidation.

b. The need to guarantee the privacy of data: Although the fundamental right of private and family life is guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the policy or legislation which would regulate the Whistleblowing Programme must also guarantee that the Ministry will put in best practices to protect the data of every whistleblower.

c. The need for prevention before breach: Looking through the FAQ, it is almost as though the extent of protection offered to whistleblowers is directly proportional to and effective upon a breach of their data. Apart from the fact that no intentional structure has been put in place to keep their identities safe, the personal data of the whistleblower first has to be breached and he has to suffer adverse treatment in retaliation before the Ministry would ‘protect’ his privacy (more or less, by investigating his claim of breach and taking further appropriate actions)

It is therefore proposed, given the foregoing, that the Ministry of Finance prepares a scheme or policy to supplement the Bill that recently passed the Third Reading in the Senate. This Policy should serve to bind the Ministry in the regulation of its laudable Whistleblowing Programme. In preparing the Policy, the Ministry is advised to strongly consider and engage the use of technology in protecting the privacy of its whistleblowers.

A Whistleblowing Committee with legal practitioners, technology experts, and Members of the Nigeria Police Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department; among others, should be established. The policy should also not just guarantee the safety of the whistleblowers but must prescribe a structure to back up the guarantee. As earlier said, a structure built on technology is the best bet for a safer system of protection. For instance, the Policy should provide for protective measures to be employed in data transfer, should consider the possibility of and prevent interception and hacking of the Ministry’s computer systems, should consider anonymization of data and the desirability of a third party repository for the data. Finally, there must be provisions for what would constitute a breach of such private data and the remedies available to a whistleblower in the event of such breach (whether or not he has suffered any loss or retaliation).

In conclusion, the Whistleblowing Programme is laudable as it will go a long way not only in fishing out corrupt citizens, but also to serve as a deterrent to the continuity of the menace called corruption. It must, however, be understood that whistleblowing is a risky activity which may involve, among other threats, a threat to both the whistleblower and his family. It would, therefore, be prudent on the part of the Ministry of Finance to put extra effort into ensuring that the trust reposed in it is firmly kept.

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This is a summary of a report on the whistle blowing protection policies of Nigeria authored by Adeboro Odunlami

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