The apathy shown by Nigerians in exercising their freedom of expression poses a major threat to digital rights in a country with growing Internet community, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), a non profit organisation has warned.
PIN is concerned that the non-chalant attitude of Nigerians in exercising its authority on freedom of expression is a major brickwall in exercising digital rights in the country.
This is one of the extracts from ”State of Internet Freedom in Nigeria”, a report published by PIN in commemoration of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD-2016).
[quote font=”georgia” font_size=”22″ font_style=”italic” align=”right” arrow=”yes”]The report recollects how PIN, Enough is Enough Nigeria and Media Rights Agenda filed a suit in a Lagos Federal High Court against the Nigerian National Assembly to stop all legislative actions on the “Frivolous Petitions Bill” due to its adverse implications on Freedom of Press and Expression.[/quote]Citing examples from across the world, PIN suggested that it has been demonstrated that active citizens are a major component of the campaign for digital rights and freedoms, a campaign which the organisation says have been left entirely in the hands of not-for-profit organisations in Nigeria.
The PIN report cited the controversial “Frivolous Petitions Bill” also known as anti-social media bill which seeks to silence the public against criticising the government that was brought to the Nigerian upper chamber by one of its members, Senator Ibn Na’Allah.
The report condemn how civil groups are left alone to fight such battles noting that its was meant to be a call to action by every Nigerian citizen.
The report recollects how PIN, Enough is Enough Nigeria and Media Rights Agenda filed a suit in a Lagos Federal High Court against the Nigerian National Assembly to stop all legislative actions on the “Frivolous Petitions Bill” due to its adverse implications on Freedom of Press and Expression.
According to PIN, while numerous citizens and organisations also took action, it was surprising to see a poorly attended public hearing and general apathy towards a voice vote system set up by Enough is Enough Nigeria.
”The group was then left to wonder why a country with millions of citizens should not file multiple lawsuits and raise hundreds of thousands of voice votes against the frivolous Bill”, the PIN report says.
According to the report “a silent threat to Internet Freedom in Nigeria is the indifference observed in the responses of a large segment of society when digital rights are discussed. Examples from the across the world have demonstrated that active citizens are a major component of the campaign for digital rights and freedoms, a campaign that is left entirely in the hands of not-for-profit organizations in Nigeria”
PIN is concerned by “the general indifference or apathy seen in the response of Nigerians to Digital Rights and Freedoms might be a cultural thing, it sometimes takes a lot to shock and rouse Nigerians to action. On the other hand, it might be a reflection of the dire economic hardship, which is a daily reality in a country where almost half of its citizens live below the poverty line.”
According to PIN’s submission, “perhaps, to the desperately poor which describes tens of millions of Nigerians , any discussion of Digital Rights and Freedoms are really inconsequential relative to the desperate life and death struggle for the daily necessities of life the majority of Nigerians confront daily.”
As such, digital rights and freedoms are perceived as elitist, which the group insists is a misguided view, for issues surrounding Internet Freedoms touch all citizens.
To further buttress how it is done in other climes, the report made reference to an Austrian Citizen, Max Schrems who in 2014, through advocacy and litigation, successfully challenged the legitimacy of the ‘safe harbour’ agreement between the EU and US technology companies like Facebook and Google that facilitated the warehousing of EU citizens data in the United States. His lone action effected a fundamental shift in the data privacy debate across the world
Meanwhile the Nigerian Senate has thrown away the Frivolous Petitions Bill. The senators in a plenary presided by the Deputy Senate President, Chief Ike Ekweremadu said they took the decision following the report of the committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters on the bill.
The chairman of the committee, Senator David Umaru while delivering report said the bill was opposed by almost all stakeholders during the public hearing, hence the recommendation for its withdrawal by the committee.