The arrest of blogger, Abubakar Sidiq Usman, by heavily armed operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday, August 8, 2016, in his residence has again highlighted the need for conversation on Digital Rights in Nigeria. Of course, this is not just a Nigerian conversation considering recent events that have seen government limiting the digital rights of citizens in Uganda, Ethiopia, Iran, Brazil, Syria, India and other countries. For Nigeria, this is not the first time that provisions of the Cybercrime Act have been used to intimidate or arrest bloggers and journalists.
“Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) totally condemns the loopholes that exist in vaguely worded laws – such as sections 24 and 38 of the Cybercrimes Act of Nigeria – to clamp down on citizens’ freedom of expression. A close assessment of these sections shows that they threaten human rights online in Nigeria and contradict provisions clearly spelt out in section 39 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” said ‘Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN). In a proactive move, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, Enough is Enough Nigeria and Media Rights Agenda filed a suit to challenge the constitutionality of sections 24 and 38 of the Cybercrime Act at the Federal High Court in Lagos, in May 2016. “We therefore call on lawyers to support this drive to challenge the unconstitutionality of these sections of the cybercrime law, and on all citizens to support the need for an amendment of these sections,” ‘Gbenga added.
According to ‘Boye Adegoke, Program Manager (ICT Policy) at PIN, “we are glad to see immediate citizen action through hashtags and calls for action and online discussions around the need for better government policies. In addition to these, we see the importance of reaching out for more forward-looking, pragmatic and positive rights legislations that guarantee the rights of citizens online and can provide an avenue for redress should citizens’ digital rights be infringed upon. This is why we worked with other civil society partners to draft the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill that has now gone through second reading in the House of Representatives.” He continued, “In the meantime, citizens must continue to hold institutions to account by asking questions on how policies are being created and implemented. More than before, the Digital Rights movement in Nigeria needs the commitment and dedicated resolve of human rights activists, civil society organizations, lawyers, the technical community, media, academia and other stakeholders who see infringements of human rights as cancerous to society’s growth.”
Tomiwa Ilori, Program Assistant (ICT Policy) at PIN, stated that “all journalists, civil society actors, forward-looking government agencies and legal practitioners all over the world must lend their voices in support of the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill as the vanguard of Digital Rights in Nigeria. At this juncture of our collective history, we must come to the realization that the evil of oppression will only fester because we refused to join our voices against it.”
‘Gbenga Sesan “calls on all citizens to put pressure on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to release Mr. Usman immediately, to avoid continued abuse of his constitutional right and demonstrate to the world that they are not an agency of government with interest in the violation of citizens’ digital rights.” He also stated that “lawyers should please continue to challenge violations of digital rights and freedom of expression in courts across Nigeria, in addition to the lawsuit filed by Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, Enough is Enough Nigeria and Media Rights Agenda.”
If you would like more information about this topic or further project description on PIN’s Digital Rights advocacy work, please send an email to email@example.com or call Tomiwa on +234 9 291 63 01