Monthly Archives

May 2020

Why We Have Not Given Up on Processes: Making FOI Requests in Nigeria

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, Internet Freedom

In the Civil Society space, it is almost trite to state that ‘Freedom of Information’ is an essential freedom. We advocate for the passage of laws that uphold this Freedom and after they are enacted we advocate for systems to ensure they are enforced. 

In Nigeria, the first phase of this advocacy journey was completed in 2011 when the President signed the Freedom of Information Bill into Law. It took years but we were grateful for its enactment.  We have also followed the journey of the Right to Information Bill in Ghana which was assented to by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on May 21 2019. 

While we celebrate the passage and assent of these laws, we are however expending time and resources focusing on putting the law to use. The thinking is that if a Freedom exists then we should be able to exercise it and if we can’t then we need to find out why. 

If you ever sent a Freedom of Information request to a public institution in Nigeria, the chances that you got a response to your request are dangerously low. Somehow it would seem that the freedom to access information exists only as a concept with no corresponding obligation on those who hold the information (to supply it). 

But indeed such obligation clearly exists in the very law that vests and affirms the right. As an Organization, we have sent a wide range of FOIs touching on our thematic focus and have had a range of experiences from multiple requests and from one Public Institution to another . However, despite disappointing realities such as the total ignoring of our requests sometimes, we still believe in the processes set down in the law and are always willing to  legally challenge such refusals. 

One of such scenarios presented itself in 2017 when we wrote a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Science and Technology regarding information on the building and launch of two of two new satellites by the National Administration of Space Research and Development Agency (NASDRA). We were interested in the intended use of the satellites and their specifications. 

It’s good to pause here to explain the rationale behind FOI Requests. We have found that many regard the request for information as a criticism of work or disagreement with policy, but that’s not necessarily true . At the heart of the FOI requests we send, is a genuine inquiry into facts. As we all know, fake news and the spread of false information have attempted to devalue the quality of public discourse and knowledge. So, when we ask public institutions clear questions, we are attempting to elicit the right information from the right sources. 

That said, our request to the Ministry of Science and Technology was not granted. As many Civil Society Organizations will attest to, this is not a strange ‘reaction’ from a public institution. For us however, the fact that this reaction was anticipated did not make it acceptable. 

Section 20 of the Freedom of Information Act clearly provides that any applicant who has been denied access to information to apply to the Court for a review of the matter within 30 days after the public institution denies the application. So we took advantage of that provision and approached the court seeking for a declaration that the failure and/or refusal of the Respondents to disclose or make available to the applicants the information amounts to a violation of the applicants’ right of access. We also sought for a Declaration that the failure and/or refusal of the Respondents to disclose information amounts to wrongful denial of access to information and finally prayed the court for an order of mandamus compelling the respondent to disclose the specifications of the two new satellites and the details of their intended use.

We argued our case and so did the Ministry. Particularly, the Ministry argued that since the information was not under their supervision, it was impracticable for them to supply it. They also argued that the Agency (NASDRA) had no immediate plan to build and launch new satellites. This argument, though simple, revealed something profound to us. If the Ministry had simply responded to our FOI request with the information that the Agency had no immediate plans to build and launch new satellites, we doubt that we would have had to resort to the Courts. We wondered (and still wonder) if we could conclude that the Nigerian public institution would rather answer to the courts than to the citizens.  

The Court reviewed our arguments vis-a-vis applicable laws and reiterated that Section 7 of the Act gives us the right of access to the court to compel the release of the information. The court also pointed out that the law allows the original public institution to transfer the request for information to another agency which it believes has the information that is being requested from it. 

Finally, the court granted all our reliefs and ordered that the Respondents grant the request sought and where they are not in possession of the information requested, they should explain so in a letter and anchor their explanations under legally stipulated exemptions. We were also awarded the cost of N100,000 in our favour. 

This was yet another interesting reveal where we saw the balance of the scale of justice  leaning towards rights and affirming the responsibilities that have to be carried out  in order for those rights to be effectively exercised. 

Of course, we attempted to enforce this judgment but that has proven difficult in itself especially because the subject in focus is arguably moot. 

But we have gotten more from this case than a response to our letter might have given. We have tested the law and it worked, at least in this scenario. We have seen a court of competent jurisdiction hold a public institution accountable to the people it serves and we have strengthened our commitment to seeking, sharing and addressing public information from the proper sources.  This is why we have not given up on processes. 

The author of this article, Adeboro Odunlami is a Legal Officer at Paradigm Initiative

 

Vacancy: Human Resources Manager

By | DigitalJobs

Paradigm Initiative (PIN) is a social enterprise that builds ICT-enabled support systems and advocates for digital rights in order to improve livelihoods for underserved African youth. Our programs include digital inclusion programs – such as the Life Skills. ICT. Financial Readiness. Entrepreneurship (LIFE) training program and the Dufuna program – and a digital rights program. PIN’s operational headquarters is in Lagos, Nigeria, and maintains digital inclusion offices across Nigeria (Aba, Ajegunle, Kano) and digital rights offices in Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya and Zambia.

The Human Resources Manager will provide executive-level leadership and guidance to the organization’s HR operations. The ideal candidate will be responsible for setting, enforcing and evaluating legally compliant human resources policies, procedures, and best practices; also identifying and implementing long-range strategic talent management goals. She (or he) will develop, implement and monitor HR strategies and initiatives aligned with Paradigm Initiative’s Best Place to Work initiative and Strategic Management Plan.

Responsibilities

  1. Recruitment/ Induction/ Exit Formalities:
  • Supervising complete recruitment life-cycle for sourcing the best talent from diverse sources after identification of (wo)manpower requirements
  • Shortlisting resumes, arranging technical training for the staff, verifying documents, and conducting employment screening (background verification) of potential employees
  • Formulating and implementing best HR practices, policies and initiatives aiming at employee welfare and retention, as part of PIN’s Best Place to Work initiative 
  • Conducting exit interviews and overseeing separation actions, including full final final settlements
  1. Performance Management
  • Identifying key performance indicators for the organization’s human resource and talent management functions; assessing the organization’s success and market competitiveness based on these metrics
  • Managing appraisal processes across the levels and establishing a framework for substantiating performance appraisal systems linked to reward management
  • Handling entire performance appraisal process across levels and establishing framework for substantiating performance appraisal system linked to reward management
  • Identifying training needs across levels through mapping of skills required for positions and analysis of the existing level of competencies.
  1. Talent Development
  • Identifying training and development needs within the organization through job analysis, appraisal schemes and regular consultation with Team Leads 
  • Designing and expanding training and development programs based on both the organization’s and the individual’s needs as well as developing effective induction programs
  1. Compensation and Benefits
  • Researching, developing and implementing competitive compensation, benefits, performance appraisal, and employee incentive programs
  • Preparing and submitting the Annual Budget for all personnel costs to the Finance and Asset Manager
  • Drafting and implementing the organization’s staffing budget, and the budget for the human resource department
  • Compiling all data needed for the annual salary review, and the annual performance appraisal analysis
  1. Employee Welfare and Engagement
  • Collaborating with executive leadership to define the organization’s long-term mission and goals; identifying ways to support this mission through talent management
  • Providing guidance and leadership to the human resource management team; assisting with resolution of human resource, compensation, and benefits questions, concerns, and issues
  • Undertaking employee engagement activities and policy driven processes for various celebrations of employees and giving awards to the best employees for their performances.
  1. General Administration
  • Handling all human resources administrative activities
  • Monitoring adherence to statutory regulations and compliance with various governmental agencies; monitoring disciplinary issues and legal matters.
  • Ensuring compliance with employment, benefits, insurance, safety, and other laws, regulations, and requirements
  • Maintaining knowledge of laws, regulations, and best practices in employment law, human resources, and talent management
  • Preparing reports on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis
  • Reviewing staff weekly reports to ensure compliance, work progress and follow-up, as necessary 
  • Participating in professional development and networking conferences and events
  • Performing other duties as assigned

Required Skills

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Excellent interpersonal and conflict resolution skills
  • Excellent organizational skills, follow-through attitude and attention to detail
  • Strong analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Strong supervisory and leadership skills
  • Thorough knowledge of employment-related laws and regulations
  • Knowledge of, and experience with, various human resource information systems
  • Excellent mastery of diverse productivity software and cloud-based efficiency management tools
  • Working knowledge of French (in addition to English) desired

Education and Experience

  • Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources, Psychology, Business Administration, or related field required; Masters highly preferred
  • 8-10  years of human resource management experience required, with strategic, talent management, and/or business development experience highly preferred
  • Experience in multiple countries across Africa, especially in East Africa, Francophone Africa, Southern Africa and West Africa desired
  • Previous experience in the development sector is an advantage
  • SHRM, HRCI and other industry certifications strongly preferred

Key Result Areas

  • Overseeing the daily workflow process of the organisation’s units
  • Recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and training the staff of the organization
  • Developing overall HR strategies, systems, tactics and procedures across the organization
  • Overseeing and managing a performance appraisal system that drives high performance. Providing constructive and timely performance evaluations
  • Developing, implementing and monitoring HR strategies and initiatives aligned with Paradigm Initiative’s Best Place to Work initiative and Strategic Management Plan

Salaries and Benefits

Commensurate with experience, plus other benefits such as health insurance, pension contributions, communication allowance, sabbatical leave, paid leave, maternity/paternity leave, dependent relative allowance and 13th-month salary.

How To Apply

Apply via this form

Deadline:

29th May, 2020 (Do apply immediately, if you are interested in the role, as applications will be reviewed as received, and candidates may be shortlisted and interviewed before the closing date.)

Resumption: July 1st, 2020.

The CoronaVirus pandemic reminds us that Digital Rights are Human Rights

By | Digital Rights

On January 9, 2020, at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Annex building in Abuja, the Presidential Broadband Committee held another session to set an agenda for the provision of affordable and reliable broadband access for the over 190 million Nigerians. Together with input from the private sector, civil society and other professionals, their goal was to ensure that the gains of Nigeria’s Broadband Plan 2013 – 2018 were expanded upon in the new plan. Nigeria’s new Broadband Plan 2020 – 2025 was published in March and set the agenda for the development of broadband infrastructure in Nigeria for the next five years.

Among the select organizations presenting evidence at the Broadband Committee’s session in January was Paradigm Initiative. A facet of our contribution focused on the need for accurate measurement of broadband access metrics in Nigeria. This is to ensure that reliable statistics on how many Nigerians really have access to broadband, and the quality of broadband quality of service, is captured. Our reasoning was that in Africa it is often the case that dodgy statistics are on display which paints far rosier pictures than the reality. Thankfully that was not the case with Nigeria.

Advocacy for affordable and quality broadband access is one of the major thrust of the work of Paradigm Initiative’s digital inclusion effort. Working out of digital inclusion training centres in Ajegunle Lagos, Aba, and Kano in Nigeria; and through research and policy advocacy in our Yaba Lagos and Abuja offices, we are always working to ensure that Nigerians reap the optimum benefits of connectivity to the digital. After all, that’s the mission of Paradigm Initiative, clearly stated on the organization’s website—‘’Paradigm Initiative is a social enterprise that builds an ICT-enabled support system and advocates digital rights in order to improve livelihoods for under-served youth“.

Yet many a time it is abundantly clear that even for those for whom advocacy organizations advocate for, the issues for which we tirelessly advocate for are unclear. Public interest advocacy can be a very lonely fight. For instance, during the course of Paradigm Initiative’s advocacy work, we have sometimes been termed ‘’busy-bodies“. Yet, as the world battles the COVID – 19 pandemic, the suffering and deprivation the global pandemic has foisted on the world perhaps presents in sharp relief why digital rights advocacy is so important. In fact, we need not look at the broad subject of digital rights in its entirety, we only need to examine broadband accessibility and affordability and its impact on education.

In Nigeria which already boasts over 10 million out-of-school children, the COVID – 19 pandemic has now ensured that even those who had access to schools have now been denied access to education because schools have been shut down to prevent the spread of the pandemic. And while children in the developed nations of the world might have the luxury of online connections to their classrooms because of well developed, standardized national broadband infrastructure which ensures that broadband is a commonplace utility which is readily available for low and middle-income households, in Nigeria only the financial elite can afford the data costs which guarantees that level of uninterrupted, seamless, quality access to classrooms in this pandemic. In the Nigerian context, we are not talking here of the capped data plans such as 1 Gigabyte, 2 Gigabytes or 5 Gigabytes of data. We’re probably talking about the unlimited data plans which allow unlimited streaming or at the very least the very large capped data plans (above 100Gigabytes) monthly.

I might go into details of Nigeria’s Gross National Income per Capita ($5710 at 2018), or extreme poverty rate (about 50%), here to buttress this. However, it could be enough to simply ask this question, ’’How many of you reading this article can conveniently fork out the approximately N20,000—N25,000 ($50—$62.50) per month to secure the unlimited data plans, or the higher capped data plans described above?”. In a country where many salaries hover around the N30,000 ($75) minimum wage, many will find such monthly data costs prohibitive. The reality is probably that millions of parents who have managed to put their children through school will personally homeschool them, with all the flaws and gaps that come with that. The children of the financial elite will come out of this pandemic several paces ahead.

So there it is. Digital rights advocacy, rather than being a very abstract thing, is laid very bare in our sights as it relates to the quality of educational experiences children will face during this lockdown. In the advocacy meetings, research, coalition building and other activities that organizations such as Paradigm Initiative does, this is the crux of the matter. Access, or the lack of it, to affordable and quality broadband will enhance or stunt human development and potential. We probably didn’t need a pandemic to tell us that.

The author, Babatunde Okunoye is Research Officer at Paradigm Initiative

 

 

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