THE Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to prioritise digital rights in the country.
CITAD, which has been a champion of digital advocacy and digital rights over the years, noted that the digital space in Nigeria is currently facing a number of challenges that impacting negatively on the digital rights of Nigerian citizens.
At a press conference last Wednesday at its headquarters in Kano, CITAD’s Digital Rights Officer, Mr Ali Sabo, called on the new administration under President Tinubu “to set a comprehensive data protection legislation that will regulate the collection, use, and sharing of personal data by public and private entities.”
He stressed that the president should as a matter of urgency prioritise the passage of the Digital Rights and Freedoms Bill in order to protect citizens’ privacy and prevent abuse of personal data.
Sabo further stated: “The president should ensure that Nigerians have the right to access and share information freely online without censorship, intimidation, or harassment. Also, his government needs to work towards creating an enabling environment for online expression and digital journalism, protecting whistle-blowers, and strengthening mechanisms for transparency and accountability.
“The increasing use of digital technologies in Nigeria has posed more risk for people who become victims of cyber threats and attacks. There is need for the new administration to work towards strengthening cybersecurity measures to ensure the safety and security of citizens’ online activities and prevent cybercrime.
“Another aspect the new administration should focus on is digital literacy as there is a significant digital divide in Nigeria, with many people lacking basic digital literacy skills; we could see this with the introduction of cashless policy in the country. 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.”
Sabo also called on the incoming leadership of the 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, and the president to ensure it is assented to once presented to him.”
Earlier, Sabo noted that there have been reported cases of government censorship and taking down of content of citizens on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram without any justification or order from a competent court.
“…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
“…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
“…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 scout free without being punished. Women and children are key victims of this, an aspect that is making it difficult to bridging the gender digital divide as more women tend to fear the digital space;” Sabo stated.