SERAP calls for endorsement of data, digital rights in Nigeria

By Adenike Ayodele

 The Socio-Econonic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has urged the Federal Government to put in place a legal framework that promotes data and digital rights of Nigerians.

SERAP made the advocacy at the presentation of a research report on: “No Place For Dissent, No Privacy, Restrictions On Data And Digital Rights In Nigeria,” in Lagos on Wednesday.

A research consultant and lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Dr Bunmi Afinowi, who presented the report, urged government to ensure that  Nigeria became a respectable 21st century digitised economy and a society governed by the rule of law.

Afinowi said the federal government through National Assembly should  repeal all repressive and anachronistic laws and regulations that denied  Nigerians their digital, data and privacy rights as guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended).

According to her, the government should end all acts that directly or indirectly infringed on the human rights of Nigerians and publicly commit to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the human rights of everyone, including data and digital rights.

She urged the federal government to withdraw the newly proposed Social Media Bill and stop all attempts to regulate social media in Nigeria, in breach of Nigerian constitution and the country’s international human rights obligations band commitments.

She also called for obedience to court judgment and repeal of the Cybercrimes Act 2015 to conform with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The lecturer, however, said the research carried out on the Nigerian digital space, indicated that journalists suffered the most breach of data and digital rights.

She said the research findings recorded violations of data and digital in Nigeria, especially in press freedom.

“40 per cent of Nigerian journalists have experienced surveillance while 50 per cent have been targeted and arrested by state actors, using their phone records and communications as justification for their actions.

“The fact that Nigeria ranks 123 out of 180 countries in press freedom does not help the matter of data and digital rights as well.

“Data protection is a developing field in Nigeria and there is a low level of enlightenment and education,” she said.

Afinowi also said citizens’ data rights were often breached by other citizens through posting sensitive information on social media and carrying out emotional attacks.

The Deputy Director of SERAP, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, in his welcome address, said the 2023 report showed that there was need for responsibility in handling digital rights issue in Nigeria.

Oluwadare said the government needed not fear the power of social media and try to clamp down on it.

“You do not have to be afraid of social media, you just have to understand it,” Oluwadare said. (NAN)