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Digital Freedom and Anti-Democratic Bills in Nigeria

The twitter discussion

By Adebayo Raphael, Project Officer for the Digital Freedom Advocacy, Center for Liberty Nigeria

On Thursday, 4th of July 2020, Center for Liberty (CFL), a Voice Sudden Opportunity grantee in Nigeria, hosted a tweet-chat session with civil rights activist Abdul Mahmud and Director of Amnesty International in Nigeria, Osai Ojigho.

Who were the guests?

Abdul Mahmoud is a Senior Lawyer, Civil Rights Activist, former student activist, former President of National Association of Nigerian Students, President, Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL), Development Consultant, Opinion Moulder, former national confab delegate, public policy analyst and a public commentator.

Osai Ojigho is the Country Director of Amnesty International. She is a respected human rights lawyer and has vast experience in social change advocacies, human rights campaigns and development across Africa. Having spent many years leading projects in the areas of gender, human rights, democracy and development, she has over the years pushed passionately, the belief that protecting human rights in Nigeria is crucial and will have wider impact across Africa. Osai is a law graduate of the University of Lagos and holds a Master of Laws (LL.M) degree from the University of Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. She was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2000. In 2010, she obtained a practice diploma in international Human Rights from the College of Law of England and Wales.

What was discussed?

The tweet-chat was themed: Digital Freedom and Anti-Democratic Bills in Nigeria. It turned out to be a very interesting session! The participants were very interactive in sharing and responding to the questions in line with the theme for the session.

The tweet-chat began with a brief introduction of the guests; Abdul Mahmud and Osai Ojigho, and then a short introductory statement from both of them. After the introductory segment of the tweet-chat, a series of questions were posed to the guests to get their insights.

On their expectation of the Senate after the public hearing, Osai felt that the harm the social media bill presents outweighs any benefit its sponsors sought to achieve, while Abdul Mahmud felt the Senate has not been a responsible parliament.

“The Senate should not pass the social media bill. It should be retired and not revived. Let them concentrate on oversight of bodies responsible for security, quality of services and protection.”

Osai Ojigho added

The guests also shared their thoughts on the decision of the ECOWAS court’s ruling that the Togolese Government’s internet shutdown in 2017 is illegal and violates the rights of citizens to freedom of expression. Click here for the full article on this. The guests had a direct debate which flowed out of the questions of CFL during the tweet-chat. Osai insisted that the internet should remain free for everyone regardless of status, position, proximity to power or other factors. While Abdul Mahmud agreed with Osai’s opinion and added another view.

‘Freedom of access should be guaranteed in a manner that allows equality of access for all which is one way of accomplishing the economic and social objectives set out in Ss.16 & 17 of the Constitution 1999 – Fundamental Objectives & Directive Principles of State Policy.’

Abdul Mahmud added

Although the two guests agreed that the Social Media and Hate Speech Bills are unnecessary and should be killed, Abdul Mahmud was, however, of the opinion that ‘freedom is not absolute’ and the National Assembly should focus on the full implementation of the CyberCrimes Act 2015.

“Economic opportunities beyond job creation that includes social welfare is paramount. Implementing gender equality policies, including increasing the participation of women in leadership and decision-making, is essential.”

Osai Ojigho Insisted

She concluded by saying that upholding the Rights to education, health, livelihood, development and other economic, social and cultural rights will lead to sustainable and empowered people placed to contribute positively to Nigeria’s growth and stability.

To read this complete online discussion log on to twitter and find it here. Watch out for more discussions on Digital Freedom in Nigeria from the Centre for Liberty.


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