THE Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) on Thursday called on the incoming administration of President-elect Ahmed Bola Tinubu, as well as the incoming 10th National Assembly to do everything possible to protect Nigeria’s digital space.
CITAD made the call at the May edition of its monthly press conference held in Kano on Thursday, where it listed a number of challenges facing the digital space in Nigeria and impacting very negatively on the digital rights of Nigerian citizens.
Ms Zainab Salihu Usman, who addressed the press conference, noted that digital rights have become an increasingly important issue in Nigeria in the context of the rise in digital technologies and the internet, and in the face of more people relying on digital platforms to communicate, access information, and conduct their daily lives.
She pointed out that rather than a liberal environment, Nigeria’s digital space “is currently facing a number of challenges, which are having a negative impact on the digital rights of Nigerian citizens. These challenges include:
“Content Takedown and Censorship: There have been many reported cases of government censorship and taking down content of citizens on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram without any justification or order from a competent court
“Internet shutdowns: There have been instances where the government has ordered the shutdown of the internet and social media. For example, in 2020, the Nigerian government ordered the complete shutdown of Twitter for six months. It also disconnected parts of a number of states such as Kaduna, Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina State in the guises of fighting bandits. While banditry continued throughout the period, ordinary citizens found it difficult to communicate even when they came under attacks by the bandits. This shutdown has jeopardized the lives of many citizens, crumbled businesses and denied citizens their freedom of expression and association on this platform
“Privacy Violations and Surveillance: There are concerns about government surveillance of citizens’ online activities and the collection of personal data by private companies for no reason or justification. This concern has been raised in many platforms by human rights activists and digital rights advocates, especially with the recent purchase of surveillance gadgets by the Nigerian government
“Online harassment and Cybercrime: There has been a rise in cybercrime and online harassment, with many Nigerians experiencing online bullying, threats, and abuse and the perpetrators of these acts are going scot free without being punished. Women and children are key victims of this, an aspect that is making it difficult to bridge the gender digital divide as more women tend to fear the digital space.”
CITAD concludes that these scenarios “are having a detrimental effect on the digital rights of Nigerians, including the right to freedom of expression, the right to privacy, the right to association online, and the right to access information.”
Drawing that the attention of the Nigerian government, particularly the incoming administration, CITAD prescribes some remedial actions to be taken by the federal government, which include the following:
“Set-Up a Comprehensive Data Protection: Nigeria needs a comprehensive data protection legislation that will regulate the collection, use, and sharing of personal data by public and private entities. We are calling the president-elect to prioritize passing of the Digital Rights and Freedoms Bill which will protect citizens’ privacy and prevent abuse of personal data.
“Internet Freedom: The president-elect should ensure that Nigerians have the right to access and share information freely online without censorship, intimidation, or harassment. Also, his government need to work towards creating an enabling environment for online expression and digital journalism, protecting whistleblowers, and strengthening mechanisms for transparency and accountability.
“Cybersecurity: The increasing use of digital technologies in Nigeria has poses more risk for people who become victims of cyber threats and attacks. There is need for the incoming administration to work towards strengthening cybersecurity measures to ensure the safety and security of citizens’ online activities and prevent cybercrime.
“Digital Literacy: Another aspect the incoming administration should focus on is digital literacy as there is a significant digital divide in Nigeria, with many people lacking basic digital literacy skills. There is need for the government to prioritize investment in digital education initiatives to provide citizens with the necessary skills to participate in the digital economy and benefit from the opportunities presented by emerging technologies.
“We all also call on the 10th National Assembly to show the same zeal as the 9th Assembly in order to ensure the speedy passage of the Digital Rights and Freedoms Bill as it would enable the country to have a comprehensive data protection system.
“Finally, we believe that if the incoming administration consider and implement these actions, the country’s digital space will become more open, free, and secure for all citizens, which in return will provide better investment in the country’s digital space by both citizens and foreign investors.”