By Ere-ebi Agedah
Civil society group under the aegis, Digital Rights and Information Partnership DRIP, has called on policymakers to support the representation and eventual passage of the digital rights bill and the domestication of the FOI act in 3 targeted states.
The group insisted that if the bill is signed into law it will safeguard Nigeria’s digital space against unlawful shutdowns, guarantee freedom of expression and assembly online.
Addressing journalist in Abuja on the importance of digital rights and the digital rights and freedom bill, Senior Associate, Planning, Advocacy and External Engagement Gatefield, Mr Chukwuma Edozie remarked that Nigeria is currently amongst the top six highest internet users in the world, hence the need to safeguard and promote a safe digital environment.
Also, according to Edozie, the domestication of the FOI act in 3 targeted states of Adamawa, Edo and kaduna state will afford citizens the opportunity to demand accountability and good governance from its leaders.
He noted that the federal government has officially acknowledged that digital rights are enshrined in human rights adding that it is equally applicable to policy makers as citizens must be protected online and offline.
He stressed that although the use of the internet comes with unique challenges and emerging issues like freedom of expression online and internet governance stated that these issues present the necessity of the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, DRFB.
‘‘The Digital Rights and Information Partnership, DRIP is a digital rights advocacy campaign that seeks to achieve an improved policy regulatory and social environment for the civil space with the focus on digital rights, freedom of expression and independent journalism.
‘‘Nigeria currently has over 109 million internet users, pegging the country amongst the top six highest internet users in the world. The rise of internet usage in Nigeria has increased online civic space engagement, advocacy and mobilization.
‘‘It has also increased reliance on digital journalism, democratizing the flow of information traditionally controlled by newspapers, magazines, radio and television companies. The online civic space serves as a refuge for citizens, including marginalized groups, to raise their voices and influence change, while digital media serves as an effective tool to raise awareness on key socio-political issues.
‘‘The DRFB is important because it tackles issues such as censorship, the prohibition of hate speech and content blocking. It was passed at the National Assembly in 2019 but not signed into law by the President.
‘‘‘The President’s assent was declined on the basis that the bill covers technical subjects that other policies seek to address. Nigeria is currently a signatory to the United Nations, UN resolution, instituted in 2016 which affirms that civil, political, economic, and social rights offline must also be protected online.
‘‘This means the Nigerian government has officially acknowledged that digital rights are enshrined in human rights. With Nigeria’s 2023 election in view, it is the most opportune time for Nigeria to live up to its commitment of upholding digital rights by safeguarding the right to freedom of expression, association and sharing information online.
‘‘We are calling on the policymakers to support the representation and passage of the bill as it will safeguard Nigeria’s digital space and guarantee freedom of expression and assembly online’’ he explained.
Also Speaking, Advocacy & External Engagement Specialist Gatefield, Shirley Ewang hinted that the bill is being worked upon to be presented and reviewed by stakeholders, Civil Society Organisations and will be presented to this 9thAssembly.