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#BringBackOurGirls Represents Growing Citizen Action

May 31, 2014 By: gbengasesan Category: Uncategorized

#BringBackOurGirls is part of an unfolding citizen action process given expression through hashtags, protests. It builds on earlier actions. When some said #OccupyNigeria was a failure, I was quick to point out the fact that it’s not correct to isolate citizen action as activities.

Before 1999, social mobility in Nigeria was frozen, except for few activists we outsourced protests, concerns to. Many buried heads in sand. With the arrival of democratised communication in the early 2000’s, thanks to mobile telephony, anger found its way through telecom networks. People discussed issues. Poor power supply, terrible roads, miseducation, shameful healthcare. Social mobility found ally in telecom freedom.

Between 2007 and 2009, when social networks began to connect more voices on similar issues, unfreezing of social mobility in Nigeria grew. By 2009, we began to see clear demonstration of anger finding exit through BBM, Facebook, more. Organization for action enjoyed these tools. The 2010 protests, triggered by a sick president and rumour of the cabal, found friends in social media connections. 2011 enjoyed from this.

2011 elections saw citizens using tools like ReVoDa and social media-enabled tools to take action. We labelled them clicktivists but a group that had found exit in silence found tools that allowed the safety of near anonymity while allowing outlets for angry expression. This is why 2012 #OccupyNigeria happened. Not because opposition or a tired labour movement wanted mass action, but anger found expression.

Social media proved useful in amplifying the issues, connecting angry citizens to mutual expression and to even report organised action live. 2013 saw Nigerian citizens standing up for each other through various #SaveCitizen efforts. You think hashtags are useless? Ask victims whose lives were saved because someone cared enough and started a hashtag. These actions are part of a trend, and it’s why it was easy for citizens to join a campaign that had elements of citizen solidarity, demand for good governance and measurable action.

When the first set of #BringBackOurGirls tweets showed up, people could identify with what it represented. Government failed to act and was going to cover up the abduction of #ChibokGirls, as usual. They saw concrete action that challenged citizen helplessness in the face of Boko Haram. #BringBackOurGirls is part of an unfolding series of citizen expression. Citizens respond to leadership that seeks results.

As with many hashtags before it, and many more we’ll see unfold, #BringBackOurGirls isn’t isolated clicktivism, it’s growing citizen action.

Ashoka Fellows: Press Statement on #BringBackOurGirls

May 18, 2014 By: gbengasesan Category: Uncategorized

For Immediate Release
ASHOKA Fellows Network
May 12th, 2014

CHIBOK GIRLS ARE OUR GIRLS: ASHOKA FELLOWS CALL FOR GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY AND INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ACTION ON MAY 14TH 2014.

On April 14th, 2014 over 270 girls were kidnapped from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state. Their lives will never be the same.

These girls had resumed briefly, to take their examinations at the school, in a state that has virtually been a war zone for the past five years due to the menace of the group we have come to know as Boko Haram. For almost two weeks, there was deadly silence, until the world began to catch up and speak out, until social media came alive with fury about yet another injustice done to innocent children by the terrorist group in North-Eastern Nigeria.

Why has the government taken so long to respond and why did they let various atrocities against the girls continue unabated before waking from their slumber upon international outcry? In our opinion, there are several reasons for the negligence:
1) Children of the Poor – these girls were characterized as ‘Children of the poor”. A serving senator was quoted as saying ‘only poor people send their children to public school’. Their parents were not senators or ministers, they had no one to speak up for them or offer a huge ransom in exchange for their return.
2) Borno State has been abandoned by the government – although under a state of emergency, daily attacks on the lives of citizens continue unabated with mass killings, kidnappings, rape and other atrocities committed against innocent civilians daily in each of these states. A report by Human Rights Watch in October 2013 described kidnappings of girls and other citizen disappearances. The parents of these girls reported that for weeks after the kidnapping, there was still no presence of any military force on ground.
3) Girls are neglected in Nigeria – girls have less of a chance to go to school and are more likely to be sold in child marriage. UNICEF
4) Education in the North is neglected and poverty is rife – Nigeria has the highest estimated number of our of school children IN THE WORLD – an estimated 8 million. Over half of these are girls.
5) The government has other priorities – becoming an economic super power has been the priority for this government – not caring who is left behind. The Goodluck Jonathon administration has focused on increasing growth rates with no attention to the growing inequalities that exacerbate social strife.

But there are several reasons that we must take note of as we fight for the lives of these innocent young girls whose nightmare over the last few weeks can only be imagined:
1) The brave and courageous – Their parents had taken a chance, a very big chance, first by attempting to school their female children in a region where some states don’t boast of a female literacy rate of over 17% and where less than 8% of female students complete secondary school. Secondly, they had taken an even bigger chance TO SEND THEIR DAUGHTERS TO SCHOOL, knowing that there have been incessant attacks on the schools in the region and that the schools had been closed for some time, only reopening for the exams.
2) The bright and ambitious – These girls were an elite few, they had made it through secondary school, against all odds, and had big dreams for their future, dreams of attending university or a tertiary institution. Some would want to be doctors, lawyers, musicians, scientists and others might even be aspiring to enter into government, to change the plight of the girl child in Nigeria.
3) Child marriage was not their option – they wanted to go to university, to become great people and have different opportunities for their lives. Unlike many girls their age in the same region, they had not been sent off into child marriage but their parents had chosen education as the key to their future.

From this, it is clear that the terrorists who stole the light from these children’s eyes had every intention to break the only hope that remains in this down trodden and forgotten region of the world – the HOPE FOR A BRIGHTER SECURE FUTURE THAT RESPECTS THEIR RIGHTS AS GIRLS AND AS HUMAN BEINGS, BASED IN THE RIGHT TO EDUCATION AND THE RIGHT TO LIFE.

For over three weeks, these girls have be out of school, away from their homes, denied their freedom and subjected to rape, abuse, forced labour and other atrocities which we do not yet know the full extent of. They have no doubt been victims of continuous sexual assault and slavery, homelessness, trafficking, sleepless nights, emotional trauma, fear of being killed, human assault, negligence and deprivation. At the very same time the president, instead of sinking his head in shame focusing on the task of finding the girls, is more interested in hosting the elite capitalists of Africa at the World Economic Forum on Africa, unabashedly dancing and laughing in public, behaving as if a national crisis were not at hand, as if it were not human beings whose lives were being destroyed.

Even as the media has awakened the world’s attention to the atrocity at hand, the fact remains that the girls have not been rescued, and as every day passes by, the chances of their rescue grows dimmer with reports of their trafficking across borders and being sold into the general population. It is at this critical time, that we must arise as a nation and fight for the return of these girls and their reconciliation and rehabilitation. It will be no easy task, but with the whole world watching, it is important that we as Nigerians continue to hold our government accountable and force its awakening from its slumber. It is time that we raise the battle cry, not just against Boko Haram, but the continuing poverty and inequality that continues to haunt us as a nation in the midst of our national wealth and riches. It is time that we arise as compatriots, and obey the call of our ancestors to fight for a nation that should be a great pride and joy to the continent.

We hereby call on the government to
1. TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE CHIBOK ATROCITY AND ITS DELAYED RESPONSE – it is not the responsibility of any other government and our government MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE and apologize to the families and the world. It must act immediately to salvage what is already a very tragic situation.
2. PURSUE THE RESCUE MISSION WITH MINIMUM USE OF FORCE – many have cried for military bombardment but we as social activists are acutely aware that war and more violence are not the answer and directly threaten the lives of the residents of the state. We ask the government get these girls back with use of MINIMUM USE OF FORCE to avoid casualties and death among the girls and the civilian population of Borno and surrounding states
3. IMMEDIATELY CALL FOR QUESTIONING AND POSSIBLE DISCHARGE of all defense and service chiefs charged to guard the citizens of the state but unable to protect these girls who have not been located for close to a month.
4. IMMEDIATELY CLOSE ALL SCHOOLS IN BORNO AND SURROUNDING STATES until government is able to offer full 24 hour protection with FULL SECURITY to all school children
6. PUT IN PLACE WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT A TRAUMA SUPPORT CENTRE – where parents and girls that have escaped from the kidnappers can receive support, care and counseling. ALL RETURNED GIRLS must be given immediate access to rape support care and placed on all necessary medications free of charge. This support centre should be fully equipped with appropriate and culturally relevant services and families and victims must receive secure transportation to and from the venue as well as have full protection while accessing services. In addition, families of the victims should be place under protective custody of the state to ensure no reprisal attacks are taken against them.

We call on Nigerians and the world to hear the silent cries of these girls as the weep daily and TO NOT RELENT UNTIL THESE GIRLS ARE BROUGHT HOME AND THE PERPETRATORS BROUGHT TO JUSTICE.

We as Ashoka Fellows in Nigeria represent the community of social entrepreneurs that are committed to social change and Social JUSTICE in the country. We cannot sit by idly and pretend that all is well when the opposite is the case. We want to state that CHIBOK girls are OUR GIRLS. They are not just poor and nameless children. They are our daughters and our sisters. They represent what little light of hope is left in the country. They represent a dream dashed to pieces and we must do all we can to halt this tragedy that is occurring and find some way to reconcile these girls with their homes and families, while giving them the full and necessary support to put the pieces of their broken lives back together.

Signed

Hafsat Abiola Costello
Special Advisor to the Governor of Ogun State on MDGs
ASHOKA Fellow ‘02

‘Gbenga Sesan
Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria
Ashoka Fellow ‘08

Rhoda Nanre Nafziger-Mayegun
Executive Director, LYNX-NIGERIA
ASHOKA Fellow ‘04

Princess Olufemi-Kayode
Executive Director, MediaCon
Ashoka Fellow ‘07

Iheoma Obibi
Executive Director, Alliances for Africa
Ashoka Fellow ‘05

Adenike O. Esiet
Executive Director, Action Health Incorporated
Ashoka Fellow ’92

Dr. Betty Agujiobi
Executive Director, MEWOOD
Ashoka Fellow

Josephine Nzerem
Executive Director, Human Angle
Ashoka Fellow ‘02

Orduh Aku Christy
Executive Director, FOTD
Ashoka Fellow ’01

Cesnabmihilo Dorothy Aken’Ova
Executive Director, INCRESE
Ashoka Fellow ‘08

Prof Ifeoma Okoye
Chairperson ‘Association for Good Clinical Practice in Nigeria &
President Breast Without Spot Cancer Initiative,
ASHOKA FELLOW ‘08

John Patrick
Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC)
Ashoka Fellow ’06

Victoria Dunmade
Coordinator, CAPTEC
Ashoka Fellow ’93

Stella Iwuagwu
Executive Director,
Center for the Right to Health
Ashoka Fellow ’02

Priscilla Achakpa
Women Environment Programme
Ashoka Fellow ‘13

Agatha Nnaji
Dewdrop Foundation
Ashoka Fellow ‘06

Afioluwa Mogaji
African farmer
Ashoka Fellow ‘13

Kevin Ekwenwa
The Fisher Project
Ashoka Fellow ‘13

Mathias Yashim
Hope Builders
Ashoka Fellow ‘13

#WEFAfrica For #BringBackOurGirls

May 04, 2014 By: gbengasesan Category: Uncategorized

#BringBackOurGirls

#BringBackOurGirls (Photo Credit: World Economic Forum)

Meanwhile…

Are You Plugged In?

March 21, 2014 By: gbengasesan Category: Uncategorized

The days when the colour of technology was masculine are over. Increasingly, technology tools that were the exclusive preserve of geeks now offer low barriers of entry, and it is safe to say that the definition of literacy has moved further down from just the ability to read, write and use a computer, to include the ability to creatively use technology tools and platforms – without the need for a manual or a training course.  When you also consider the fact that your mobile phone is more powerful than some of the most powerful computers that paraded the cold rooms of Computer Science departments many years ago, and that the increasing power of technology platforms or tools come with ease of use, you will agree with me that not taking advantage of these tools and platforms now comes with fewer excuses.

Social Media pushes the bar higher with its extreme simplicity and diverse applications. Earning its name from the unique combination of social sharing, social networks and media attributes, social media allows the user to pull and push information through the convenience of mobile devices and more. Popular social media platforms include multipurpose Facebook, with 1.2 billion monthly active users globally and 11.4 million in Nigeria alone; micro-blogging platform, Twitter; picture sharing application, Instagram; video platform, YouTube; and much more. The power of social media has been seen in business, media, politics, business, education and more. The question, though, is: are you plugged in? Are you taking advantage of social media? Let me quickly share three ways you should take advantage of social media.

News and Updates: How do you get your news and updates on events that interest you or matter to your business? If you’re the type that still waits to read yesterday’s news in today’s newspaper, you can be sure that your competition is way ahead of you. With social media, you can follow the news and get updates by subscribing to people and organisations that are likely to share news and/or updates that matter to you.

Information Sharing: It’s not just about getting, it’s also about giving. I’m sure there is a lot you can’t wait to share. From new products to opportunities you want others to know about – and to some not-so-serious updates you’d like to talk about – and more, social media allows you share and gain loyal following so people can return for more. And trust me on this: you’re not the only one who would be sharing information about opportunities, so you might want to watch out for opportunities that you can benefit from too.

Research and Feedback: When you have a quick question about traffic in Lagos, a service you can’t find in the Yellow Pages (wait, there’s none on your coffee table) or you need feedback on any topic, social media is a space that begs to give answers. When I arrive in a new city these days, I take advantage of social media to get recommendations – restaurants, places I must visit, hotels, etc. Why pay an agent when your social media followers are willing to give you information at no cost?

This article first appeared in The Woman Leader Magazine

Two Interesting Journeys

January 17, 2014 By: gbengasesan Category: Uncategorized

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It’s been an interesting journey. Literally. And figuratively.

We set out, from Lagos, for the magical island of Seychelles on Wednesday night, to celebrate Temi’s birthday and our 5th wedding anniversary, but the journey grew wings. A strike action at an airport led to missing our connecting flight to Seychelles, even though the airline staff in Lagos went the extra mile – after we insisted, of course – to make sure we could join the connecting flight because the next onward flight to Seychelles would be on Sunday, 2 days after the major events we thought to celebrate on the beautiful island tucked away in the middle of the Indian ocean.

The duty manager called the central operations team to explain our situation and he was assured the connecting flight would be held for a few minutes to allow us board, especially as we packed only one bag. Well, our plans for this holiday isn’t one that requires a lot in packed luggage. But I digress. So, after we boarded and overcame the day-long airport staff strike action, we looked forward to a trip without delays. The moment we were courteously pulled aside on arrival, my alarm bells went off – the flight had left without us. A few minutes later, we demanded to speak with ground staff at the transit hub, and she was quick to say they’d put us in a hotel until Sunday.

Temi knew what would come next, so she looked at me as if to say, “baby, take it easy.” She assured me it was okay to work within the plans but I replied, “a promise is a debt, we have a birthday and anniversary to enjoy at our desired location.” After few calls on her phone and repeated attempts to convince me it was impossible to get us to Seychelles, I told Sylvia I needed to speak with the “oga at the top.” The lady I spoke with was calm, and quick to say everything Sylvia (I pitied her at some point) had already told us. I was calm (even Temi was surprised) but told the oga something like: “I know you couldn’t do anything about the airport strike but you made a promise.”

I continued, “Look through your network for an airline that can help fulfill your promise, hire a private jet or a very fast boat… but I have to pay a debt to a tired young woman.” I think she understood what was going on here. She asked for a few minutes, and after what looked like a very long wait, Sylvia showed up with a solution. I wanted to ask her why they called the task impossible before until I insisted on getting online myself to recommend possible connections, but we were too tired to gloat. A few minutes later, we were at lunch and arrangements to get us to Seychelles in time for Temi’s birthday and our anniversary were taken care of.

That’s the literal part of the interesting journey.

As I write this on the flight towards our final destination, Temi is reading the latest edition of Msafiri. I just checked the cover again to be sure I got that spelling right. I did. She smiled. Of course, she knows what’s going on here. I hardly write non-tech reports, so she knows this is about the journey – the literal one. The figurative journey started this time 5 years ago. In Lagos, Nigeria.

65 months before January 17, 2009, I met Temi at a friend’s wedding and immediately asked her to dance with me. The groom was my friend and the bride was hers but for some reason, we had never crossed paths even though we all attended the same university. I think it was because she lived in the classroom, a place I didn’t exactly consider my first priority while on campus. Okay, I digress again. After a failed first date – involving an inability to pay at Chocolate Royale, Temi suggesting she didn’t really like the place anyway (to save my ego), walking to another restaurant (and it wasn’t for fitness) – and many more incidents that included a friend advising her not to marry me because of my bad habits, we got engaged. Er, there’s a Part 2 for that video :)

The journey of marriage is one you can’t prepare enough for because the dynamics change once you both wake up without pretenses beside each other. In the first 3 years, I learnt tolerance. Chei! I learnt a lot. As far as I was concerned, I was making a lot of sacrifices and she was too busy trying to create a new body of knowledge. Temi was completing her PhD in the UK, so I was in Nottingham every month. I’d promised on our wedding day that I’d make sure we spent good time together each month, so I made sure that meetings outside Nigeria took me through the UK route. And for months that saw no work travel, I traveled anyway. After many fights, tears and a day she almost walked out of the house, we both learnt how to support each other’s career and enjoy it!

Anyone who knows me really well (not the new “friend”-ship as defined by social media) won’t be surprised to read this: I get plenty wahala. Yes, work in progress, but far from the picture that public appearances show. Not that I pretend, but you know how none of us would fart in public as we’d do when in the confines of our bedroom with folks who are used to the odour? I thought you’d get it. Now, let’s get back to pretending we all don’t do that. Cool. In the few years spent with Temi, I’ve done things that made her cry, shown signs that could make anyone doubt love regardless of how deeply it’s expressed, etc, but one thing that I can’t argue with myself about is that she’s the best decision I ever made.

This interesting journey has involved days of those tough marriage questions: does she really love me? Why on earth won’t she see that I almost killed myself to do that? And more. Maybe the fact that I knew I was a flawed human being helped me learn a lot. Of course, she isn’t a saint, but she’s such a sweet soul that I wonder why she considered signing those dotted lines on January 17, 2009. Five years and many decisions later, I look at her and I smile. I smile because we’ve taught each other a lot (most recent lessons from Temi include small talk, remembering people’s names, calling friends and family, etc) and I’m glad we have many more years to continue to do that.

In many ways, I think this fifth wedding anniversary signals the next phase of our union, but it also represents the next phase of our careers – bodies of knowledge we’re both proud we’ve spent years to build. I don’t even know if I’m writing this to say thank you to the woman who changed my life (and continues to do so), or just thinking out loud about this interesting 5-year journey, but I am glad to have a co-traveller that inspires me, and one I am proud to call Mentor. We push each other towards career heights that ordinarily scare us as individuals, but most of all, I have discovered the true meaning of love. Love is Temilade Adeyinka Sesan.

Temilade, thank you for saying yes.

Adeyinka, the promise to become better is a debt.

Baby, I’m sorry I stole your birthday and turned it into our wedding anniversary. Well, it’s insurance against ever forgetting :D Happy birthday, hun!

I know I’ll get a chance to say this privately, but to the woman who has spent the last 5 years laughing at my increasingly almost-not-funny jokes and working with me to keep smiles on both faces: oooooooooooooooooooooooosé!

Cleaning Her Way Towards Opportunity

January 06, 2014 By: gbengasesan Category: Uncategorized

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She’s young. Very young. We hired her as a cleaner when it became clear that the new office needed someone to look after it through the day, especially as there was now a lot of human traffic through the Ajegunle Innovation Centre – parents seeking opportunities for their kids, students who come in daily for 7 weeks to learn new things that could turn their lives around, young people who just want to check out what was so important that their colleagues went through the rigour of interviews. Tinuke didn’t come across as one with a lot of confidence. Actually, she lacked confidence and you could see through it. But she was just a victim of the lack of opportunity that Paradigm Initiative Nigeria is working hard to at least make a dent in – and continue to chip away at the alarming numbers. When we hired her, she didn’t bother to tell us that she had gone through training at an ICT Centre, and that she actually did teach. Yes, she didn’t bother trying to pick up a job with that skill and grabbed the opportunity she could get.

I’ve seen a lot of that. People don’t bother looking for matching opportunities because 54% of the other young people out there are unemployed, and they will accept a much lower pay to edge others out of the competition for the few spots that open up. At one point, a graduate attended the interview for our Ajegunle.org program but hid what you would think was his competitive advantage. He knew it was a program for folks who, among other things, have not had a chance at tertiary education and didn’t want his degree to disqualify him from a program that could offer a 3-month (or longer) internship that might just be his entry to the world of work that had eluded him for over 3 years after he was told by his Vice Chancellor that he had been found worthy, in character and in learning, to join the labour force. He didn’t get a job, like many others, so he lowered the bar to start from anywhere. Chances are that the security guard you were rude to last week holds a BSc but ate the humble pie as he keeps searching for that better opportunity. I don’t think this was Tinuke’s deliberate approach, but she is also a lot more powerful than the position she accepted.

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As she cleaned the training room, she showed interest in more than just keeping it neat. After asking her about her plans for tertiary education, I’d think to myself: she should join the next set of students so she can pick up skills that could set her up for much more. Little did I know that she would one day walk into the class to train the students she was cleaning up after. Tinuke is no longer just the cleaner who had to keep every stain off, she is now the tall lady who puts students through on those computers she still cleans. Of course, she won’t be there for much longer as she has now taken the bold step of showing interest in an opening to do what she had been doing on the side – assisting our program lead with making the Ajegunle.org experience much better. Just before the staff evaluation exercise at our recently concluded staff retreat, other members of the team confirmed the need for her to step up, “come out of her shell” and show much more confidence. I took time to tell her in person, when she sat alone with me to give honest feedback that could help us at Paradigm Initiative Nigeria in our desire to be a much more desirable place to work.

Tinuke is work in progress, as I am. As you are too? Well, I thought it was just me. And Tinuke. LOL. I won’t be surprised when she goes on to become much more than she was ever given a chance to be, and I am extremely glad that Paradigm Initiative Nigeria is able to add value to the students that walk through our doors – and the young men and women who work very (read that as VERY) hard to make sure that our program beneficiaries get a chance to improve their lives. Our vision is summarized by ICTs + Youth = Socio-Economic Opportunities and it is the work that people like Tinuke and the other team members do that allows us to hit the nail on the head. But this isn’t just about a young woman who is climbing higher on the ladder of opportunity, it’s also about what she has taught me. Tinuke has reminded me again that it’s okay to start really small and grow, and to never allow the smallness of the space you currently occupy take away the sight of that big vision. Thank you, Tinuke, and all the best with the rest of your career journey.

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PIN Policy Brief 002: An Internet Freedom Charter for Nigeria

January 02, 2014 By: gbengasesan Category: Uncategorized

PIN Policy Brief 002

Security vs Freedom: Update on Internet Freedom and Communication Privacy in Nigeria

January 01, 2014 By: gbengasesan Category: Uncategorized

Military History and Clampdowns

On January 15, 1966, Nigeria’s 6-year old post-colonial democracy was truncated by a military coup. What would be the country’s first phase of military rule lasted until October 1, 1979, when General Olusegun Obasanjo handed over to a democratically elected Shehu Shagari. On the last day of 1983, General Muhammadu Buhari resumed the second phase of military dictatorship that survived until May 29, 1999. The years of military rule saw huge oppression of citizens and massive clampdown on the media and civil society.

Civil society leaders fled to exile. Media institutions that chose to report the news as it happened faced threats, attacks and even death. Every dissenting voice was billed for squashing until various events led to the re-emergence of democracy in Nigeria. In the same year that the military handed over the leadership of Nigeria and the nation joined other nations across the world to practice democracy, a Constitution (for the Federal Republic) with provisions for citizen rights returned as a supreme instrument.

Among other provisions, Section 37 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) makes a very strong case for citizens’ rights to privacy: “The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected.” Though Nigeria returned to democratic rule, this provision has not been perfectly respected. In fact, military-style provisions like “Official Secrets” and “Sedition” were popular until a Freedom of Information law was finally approved in 2011.

Threats to Privacy and Freedom

For a long time, Nigeria has seen various degrees of unrest around various regions of the country. In the South East, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) recently gave a sit-at-home order. The South West’s Odu’a People’s Congress (OPC), that has morphed into something close to a vigilante group, was once dreaded for its activities.

Militants in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta area were probably the most popular for their hold on the State until the North East started seeing terrorist acts by Jama’atu Ahlisunnah Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, popularly known as Boko Haram. Following a bomb blast at the venue where the 50th independence anniversary of Nigeria should have held, in October 2010, and other terrorist activities, the Nigerian State began activities that were borderline illegal as far as the privacy and freedom of citizens are concerned.

A Telecom Facilities Lawful Interception of Information Bill was introduced in the National Assembly in 2010 but as with many legislative needs in Nigeria, the bill did not enjoy much traction before the 6th Session of the Assembly completed their term in May 2011. In 2013, the telecommunications regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission, introduced Draft Lawful Interception of Communications Regulations, which sought to achieve, through secondary legislation, what the Lawful Interception Bill was slow to achieve.

Considering the constitutional provision that protects the privacy of telecom users, various groups kicked against the act. Groups asked the Government to do the right thing by subjecting any such regulation to the rigour of legislative processes. At about the same time, an online newspaper, Premium Times, revealed that the federal Government had awarded a secret contract to Elbit Systems – to monitor Internet communication in Nigeria.

In May 2013, an online technology newspaper, Technology Times, revealed that DigiVox, a company that specializes in lawful interception services, listed the Nigerian State Security Service and all private telecommunications operators in Nigeria – MTN, Airtel, Etisalat, Glo – as its clients.

Paradigm Initiative Nigeria’s (Ongoing) Intervention

With support from the Citizen Lab/Munk School for Global Affair’s CyberStewards Program and Internews’ Global Internet Policy Project, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) strengthened its focus on ICT Policy in Nigeria in the first quarter of 2013. This put the organization in a good position to fill an existing vacuum in advocacy for Internet Freedom in Nigeria.

Beginning with a Freedom of Information request that was not responded to after the mandatory seven (7) days, PIN commenced a targeted advocacy effort that has now evolved into the application for an “order of mandamus” through a Federal High Court in Abuja. The court is yet to set a date for ruling as at the time of submitting this abstract to the Connaught Summer Institute on Monitoring Internet Openness and Rights.

PIN also continues to consult widely with stakeholders including the National Assembly, Ministry of Communication Technology, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), technology enthusiasts, Internet users and some security agencies. A Policy Brief titled Nigeria: Making A Case For Enduring Internet Freedom was published on May 29, 2013, and has been widely distributed.

The National Assembly has announced that its Information and Communication, Security and Human Rights committees will jointly investigate the secret contract awarded to Elbit Systems, and PIN has been invited to follow the proceedings, which could start before the summer institute convenes in Toronto in July 2013. PIN also worked with a group of 10 other CSOs to release a joint statement on the need for government to follow due procedure in its attempt to monitor private communication in the name of keeping citizens safe from terrorism.

PIN has enjoyed tremendous media support in the advocacy work, which has been further helped by the ongoing global discussions on the issue of citizen surveillance, and particularly PRISM in the United States of America.

Remote Participation: Nigeria Internet Governance Forum (NIGF) 2013

June 15, 2013 By: gbengasesan Category: Uncategorized

The Nigeria Internet Governance Forum (NIGF) 2013 will be held on Tuesday 18th June 2013 at the Shehu Yar’adua Centre, Abuja. If you will not be present at the event, you can join remotely with the online WebEx information provided by the Nigerian Chapter of Internet Society below:

WEBEX DETAILS
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Topic: Nigeria Internet Governance (NIGF) 2013 – Opening Session [Note the time and link change]
Date: Tuesday, 18. June 2013
Time: 09:00 – 10:00 AM
Meeting Number: 924 212 463
Meeting Password: NigIntGov2013

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To join the online meeting (Now from mobile devices!)
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1. Go to https://isoc.webex.com/isoc/j.php?ED=229597692&UID=0&PW=NNTQ0ZDNlZDc0&RT=MTYjMjM%3D
2. If requested, enter your name and email address.
3. If a password is required, enter the meeting password: NigIntGov2013 4. Click “Join”.

To view in other time zones or languages, please click the link:

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2. General Sessions 12.00noon – 1.30pm

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WEBEX DETAILS
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Topic: Nigeria Internet Governance (NIGF) 2013 – General Sessions
Date: Tuesday, 18. June 2013
Time: 11:30, Europe Summer Time (Paris, GMT+02:00)
Meeting Number: 925 651 034
Meeting Password: NigIntGov2013

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3. Way Forward (Youth Workshop) 11:35am -3:00 pm

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Topic: Nigeria Internet Governance (NIGF) 2013: Way Forward (Youth Workshop)
Date: Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Time: 11:15 AM to 3:00 PM
Meeting Number: 925 987 794
Meeting Password: NigIntGov2013

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Access code:925 987 794

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CSOs: Government Should Respect Internet Freedom and the Privacy of Citizens Online

June 11, 2013 By: gbengasesan Category: Uncategorized

Government Should Respect Internet Freedom and the Privacy of Citizens Online

By Civil Society Organizations Working on ICT for Development Issues in Nigeria

The Nigerian media space has recently been awash with news of a multi-million dollar Internet surveillance contract, ostensibly intended to enable the government monitor internet communications of citizens. According to the Nigerian online newspaper, Premium Times, the Nigerian Government had signed a $40 million contract with an Israel-based company, Elbit Systems, to monitor internet communication in Nigeria.

Another report, titled “Stop, Jonathan, Stop – Before Nigerians Lose Their Internet Freedom“, reveals that, “…it was reported that Nigeria set aside $61.9 million for ‘Wise Intelligence Network Harvest Analyzer System’, Open Source Internet Monitoring System, Personal Internet Surveillance System And Purchase Of Encrypted Communication Equipment.”

It further explains that although “…the act of surveillance, for the purpose of ensuring national security, might appear noble, it is important to explain how lazy governance is at play again, in what could take Nigeria many years back into the military era when surveillance became a tool of oppression by the State.”

So far, the government has not denied the story of the contract award. Instead, its silence on the matter would appear to be a confirmation of the contract deal, which raises a number of serious concerns, including the following:

1. Such Internet surveillance is a rude, undemocratic and illegal violation of the privacy of citizens. The government must protect the privacy of all citizens and this should not be violated through such unwarranted surveillance of all technology-mediated communication; such as communication with friends and loved ones by email, SMS and chat;

2. It is huge waste of public resources with absolutely no return on the investment because as an open platform, the Internet has a reasonable amount of safeguards against criminal uses. In addition, the current legal instruments – if effectively employed – provide for adequate non-intrusive surveillance of suspected criminals;

3. It is a monumental waste of efforts in addressing security challenges because criminals who use the Internet for criminal purposes usually deploy sophisticated encryption technologies for which the surveillance of mail reading and interception of other communications would disproportionately affect the average and less technically-sophisticated citizen;

4. The contract is a total negation of the local content principle that the government through the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has been promoting and which is necessary for the repositioning of the national economy to achieve the goals of Vision 20:2020;

5. If government is interested in fighting cyber crime, it would focus its attention on legislating specific and better targeted cybercrime related laws that have been waiting for government action at various stages.

We acknowledge the importance of the Internet as a platform for governance, education, commerce, and indeed for all social engagements. We also acknowledge the fact that Nigeria is currently passing through a major security challenge. However, this challenge cannot be addressed by unwarranted intrusion on the privacy of citizens which only promises to lead to the abrupt collapse of the digital economy in the country and the wiping out of the benefits gained from the internet.

The measure itself is a flagrant violation of the constitutional guarantee of the privacy of citizens as provided for in Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution, which stipulates in very clear terms that “The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected.”

The only permissible circumstances under which this right may be restricted are those stated in Section 45(1) of the Constitution, which means that the measure taken must be in accordance with a “law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society” to protect the stated interests or the rights and freedoms of other persons. We fail that see any such law being relied upon in the award of the illegal surveillance contract.

In view of these, we the undersigned, as representatives of our respective organizations that are committed to the use of ICTs for development:

1. Unequivocally condemn the contract and call on government to immediately cancel it;

2. Demand that the Federal Government works with the National Assembly to take legislative action on various draft laws and regulations as well as pending bill relevant to the issue and that the process should be fully transparent with adequate opportunity given to all interested parties and stakeholders to make inputs into the process.

3. Enjoin the government to work with all stakeholders to curb cyber crime and address security problems, arising from the use of the Internet, within the context of democratic norms and principles and in accordance with international best practices of protecting the privacy and human rights of citizens.

Signed by: BudgIT, Centre for Information Technology Awareness and Development (CITAD), Co-Creation Hub (CcHub), Development Information Network (DevNet), Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria, Fantsuam Foundation (FF), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), Wennovation Hub, West African NGO Network (WANGONeT) and Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre (W.TEC)

[Draft Statement on Internet Freedom/Communication Privacy in Nigeria by ICT4D CSOs]