MRA Inducts Petroleum Equalisation Board into its FOI Hall of Shame for the Cult-like Secrecy in its Operations

Ahmed Bobboi, Executive Secretary, PEFMB
Ahmed Bobboi, Executive Secretary, Petroleum Equalisation Fund (Management) Board (PEFMB)

LAGOS, Monday, March 26, 2018: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today inducted the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (Management) Board into its Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame, saying the Board’s refusal to be transparent and its preference for cult-like secrecy in its operations only serve to heighten questions about its continued relevance in light of its failure to achieve the objectives for which it was established.

The Board was established in 1975 by Decree No. 9 of 1975, which was later amended in 1989 by Decree No. 32 of 1989, to offset the inequality in the transportation cost of distributing petroleum products in different parts of Nigeria in order for the Government to be able maintain a uniform pricing system for such products all over the country.

The primary responsibility of the Board is to reimburse petroleum marketing companies for any losses suffered by them, solely and exclusively, as a result of their selling petroleum products at uniform prices throughout the country.

The mandate of the Board is therefore to ensure that the Uniform Pricing Mechanism that the Federal Government introduced during the period worked effectively throughout Nigeria and that each marketing company complied with the laws regarding the management of the transportation equalisation process.

In a statement in Lagos, MRA’s Legal Officer, Ms Chioma Nwaodike, noted that “More than 40 years after the Board was established, it is clear that it has failed to deliver on the objectives that motivated its establishment, given that the pricing of petroleum products has never been uniform across the country all through these years. Perhaps, some transparency about the activities of the Board may have enabled us to understand what exactly it does and whether there is any reason for its continued existence in light of its apparent spectacular failure.”

According to Ms Nwaodike, “having been charged with the responsibility for reimbursing petroleum marketing companies for losses suffered by them as a result of their sale of petroleum products at uniform prices throughout the country, for which it is expending public funds in this regard, the Board owes Nigerians a duty to keep them informed about every aspect of its operations including what it gets annually from the national budget, how much it is expending for various purposes, who the beneficiaries of its reimbursement scheme are, how the reimbursements are calculated, among other things. Unfortunately, it is not doing this.”

She accused the Board of flouting and rendering meaningless its mission statements to its various stakeholders, including its statement to marketers “to be a prime and transparent organization, for the timely reimbursement of marketers’ transportation claims” as well as its statement to Nigerians to be “a responsible, accountable and efficient parastatal facilitating the distribution of petroleum products nationwide at approved prices”.

Ms Nwaodike said by brazenly neglecting to comply with its statutory obligations under the FOI Act, the Board makes nonsense of its mission statement where it says it aims to be a “transparent organization” and an “accountable and efficient parastatal” as well as listing ‘integrity’ as one of its core values.

She observed that by consistently failing over the past seven years to comply with its proactive publication obligations in Section 2 (3), (4) and (5) of the FOI Act to publish and disseminate 16 classes of information as well as review and update them whenever changes occur, the Board is demonstrating its clear disdain for the laws of the land, the ideals of democracy, and the core values it claims guide its operations.

According to her, “although the Board has published information that can best be described as innocuous, it however failed to publish some vital information that the Act requires it to proactively publish and disseminate including, but not limited to, documents containing information relating to the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds of the institution; documents containing the names, salaries, titles and dates of employment of all employees and officers of the institution; and a list of files containing applications for any contract, permit, grants, licenses or agreements, etc.”

Ms Nwaodike noted that the Board has also refused to submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation any report on its implementation of the Act for seven consecutive years, in clear defiance of Section 29 (1) and (2) of the FOI Act and the Guidelines on the Implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 issued by the Attorney General of the Federation, the oversight agency for the FOI Act, as the Board has neither submitted any report nor made any such report available to the public in any form whatsoever.

She also accused the Board of not providing appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information and for the effective implementation of the Act at any time in all the seven years that the law has been in operation, as it is required to do under Section 13 of the FOI Act.

Noting that there is no single reference to the FOI Act on the Board’s website, Ms Nwaodike observed that the Board has acted over the last seven years as if the Law does not exist and continued to conduct its functions and operations in cult-like secrecy.

Launched on July 3, 2017, the FOI Hall of Shame shines the spotlight on public officials and institutions undermining the effectiveness of the FOI Act through their actions, inactions, utterances and decisions.

For further information, please contact:

Ridwan Sulaimon
Programme Manager, Freedom of Information
Media Rights Agenda, Lagos
E-mail: sulaimon@mediarightsagenda.org

NIRA opens nominations for its 2018 .ng Awards

Reverend Sunday Folayan is the President, Executive Board of Directors, NiRA.
Reverend Sunday Folayan, President, Executive Board of Directors, NiRA.

The Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA) has opened nominations for its 2018 .ng award to celebrate the achievements and innovation of Nigerian Internet initiatives.

 The awards aim to showcase Nigerian businesses, individuals, charity, public and private sector organizations which help to make the Internet a more secure, open, accessible and rewarding experience for all.

The .ng annual award is open  to organizations or individual who use the .ng domain with outstanding online activities.
NiRA believes that the .ng domain name space has a positive impact on the lives of internet users. They  choose to honour and acknowledge the great work being done out there and desire the populace to know about it, talk about it, engage with it and put it into the spotlight.

The award criteria to be met by all nominees of the 2018 .ng award are: company, organization or individual must have registered and is doing business with the .ng domain name; the Domain name must have been registered for over six (6) months; and the website associated with the domain name must be active on the Internet.

Nomination into the .ng Awards was opened to the public on Friday, 16th March, 2018 and will close at midnight on Friday 30th March, 2018. The nomination for the awards is open to individual and corporate organizations that meet the award criteria.

The 2018 .ng Awards is scheduled to hold at 6:00 pm on Friday, 27th April, 2018 in Lagos and the award categories for this year’s edition are as follows:

  1. .ng Company of the year

This award is presented to the company, organization that has demonstrated excellence in business innovation, online user experience and commitment to the Nigeria Internet community while embracing sound business practices.

  1. Most Innovation Service Provider Online

This award is presented to the organization that promotes innovative service delivery on the internet.

  1. Best Banking or Insurance Website/Portal

This award is presented to the bank or insurance company website or portal that delivers the best user experience.

  1. Best E-payment Website/Portal

This award is presented to the E-payment company with the best website or portal that delivers the best user experience.

  1. Best Tertiary Institution Website/Portal

This award is presented to the Tertiary Institution/University with the best .edu.ng website/portal; based on how current the website is, the level of local content on the website, ease of use, relevance of the website for delivery of educational services and how dynamic the website is.

  1. Start-up company of the year

This award is presented to the startup company (companies less than 5 years) that uses the internet creatively & innovatively to scale up their business and achieve business competitiveness.

  1. Best Local Hosting Company

This award aims to continuously encourage the growth of local website hosting companies, in Nigeria. This award is presented to the best local hosting company in Nigeria.

  1. Best Local Government in Digital Innovation

This award recognizes the Local Government that has invested in Technology to promote innovation and local content development.

  1. Best State Government in Digital Innovation

This award recognizes the State Government that has invested in Technology to promote innovation and local content development.

  1. Best Federal Government Agency/ Parastatal/MDAs in Digital Innovation

 This award is presented to the best website/portal of the Federal Government Agency/Parastatal/MDAs that provides the best user experience.

THE .NG MEDIA AWARD

The .ng media Award recognizes excellence in journalism and other media-related activities; based on the level of local and original content promoted. These award categories consist of four award groups.

  1. Best Print Media Website
  2. Best Online Media Website
  3. Best Electronic Media Website (Television)
  4. Best Electronic Media Website (Radio)

Members of the public who wish to participate in nominating any organization or individual are to note the nomination criteria. To participate in the nomination, or find out more about the awards, click here.

MRA Calls for Speedy Presidential Assent to Digital Rights and Freedom Bill

President Muhammadu Buhari
Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill into law as soon as he receives it from the National Assembly, saying it is the most practical way for his Administration to demonstrate its support for Internet freedom for Nigerians.

In a statement in Lagos, MRA applauded the leadership of National Assembly for the speedy passage of the Bill by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and urged them to ensure that a clean copy reaches the President for signature in the shortest time possible in order to bring their efforts to fruition.

The Bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives on December 19, 2017, was similarly passed by the Senate earlier this week, on Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA), described the proposed Law as “a strong piece of legislation that seeks to effectively protect the rights of Nigerians on the Internet and in the digital environment in accordance with the global norms and standards that Nigeria has helped to establish.”

Calling on President Buhari to assent to the Bill without delay and thereby demonstrate his willingness to protect the rights of all Nigerians online as they are protected offline, he said: “The Bill provides a comprehensive framework for the advancement, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet and in the digital environment, consistent with Nigeria’s regional and international obligations under various international human rights instruments, some of which Nigeria has led in bringing into being by co-sponsoring”.

For instance, Mr Ojo said, “Nigeria played a leading role on the global stage in 2012 when it led in co-sponsoring the landmark Resolution on the Promotion, Protection and Enjoyment of Human Rights on the Internet at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, alongside Sweden, the United States, Brazil, Turkey and Tunisia, wherein it was affirmed that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression, which is applicable regardless of frontiers and through any media of one’s choice.”

Observing that the resolution has brought Nigeria tremendous respect and acclaim from around the world, he urged the President to sign the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill “in keeping with the groundbreaking direction and guidance which this Resolution provided to the global community on human rights online.”

In addition, Mr. Ojo said, the Digital Rights and Freedom Act will help boost an innovative environment for Nigerians, as well as accelerate the country’s development in the digital age by allowing all Nigerians take maximum advantage of emerging opportunities, adding that this will be beneficial to the government and its efforts to ensure the economic growth of Nigeria including though its recent Enabling Business Environment initiative.

Mr. Ojo added that: “The Bill, when it becomes Law, will bring Nigeria’s domestic law, policy and practices with regards to the protection of human rights on the Internet into conformity with this international norm that we were central as a nation in developing and bequeathing to the global community.”

MRA also called on all other stakeholders, especially the media and civil society actors, to lend their voices to the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill by advocating for speedy presidential assent and subsequently, to monitor its implementation and ensure that its provisions are applied in practice.

Mr. Ojo said: “This piece of legislation will ultimately impact the personal and professional lives of every Nigerian who is connected to the Internet as well as those who will be connected in the future. It is therefore essential for all stakeholders to contribute to this process in every way possible including through advocacy, by writing about it, facilitating discussions and debates, playing their roles in ensuring its implementation and encouraging other members of society to do so as well.”

He also praised Paradigm Initiative for leading and coordinating the multi-stakeholder efforts that characterized the development and drafting of the Bill and resulted in its speedy passage by the National Assembly, saying it has once again demonstrated the power of civil society to positively affect the fortunes of Nigeria and Nigerians.

NLNG Throws Open Prizes for Literature and Science

Tony Attah, CEO, Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas
Tony Attah, CEO, Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas

Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited is inviting applications for the 2018 Prize for Literature and Science competition. The prizes are aimed at bringing Nigerian scientists and authors to public attention and celebrating excellence in scientific breakthroughs and literary accomplishments in the nation.

The literature prize in 2018 will focus on Drama while the science prize will be accepting entries on Innovations in Electric Power Solutions. Prizes will rotate among four literary genres- Prose Fiction, Poetry, Drama and Children’s Literature for the literature.

The award that started in 2004 will see successful applicants pocket the  cash prize  of $100,000 each.  The literature prize opened on February 13, 2018 and will close on March 29, 2018.  The window for the science prize opened on February 15, 2018 and will close on May 25, 2018.

The company said Professor Matthew Umukoro will head the panel of judges for this year’s Literature prize competition. Professor Umukoro is a professor of Theatre Arts at University of Ibadan.

Other members include Professor Mohammed Inuwa Buratai, a Professor of Theatre and Performing Arts and the Dean of the Faculty of Arts at Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU), Zaria; and Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Udengwu, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Theatre and Film Studies at University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

For more information, Click: http://www.nigerialng.com/Our-CSR/Pages/The-Nigeria-Prizes.aspx

WWW Inventor Wants Stakeholders to Tackle Threats to the Web’s Future

 Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Founder of the World Wide Web (WWW) Foundation
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Founder of the World Wide Web (WWW) Foundation

Founder of the World Wide Web (WWW) Foundation, Sir Tim Berners-Lee has called on all stakeholders to join the fight in securing the web’s future, saying that the web is under threat.

Sir Bernes-Lee who is also the inventor of the web made the call on March 12, 2018 in celebration of the World Wide Web’s 29th anniversary.

According to the web inventor, “this year’s occasion marks a milestone in the web’s history, for the first time, we will cross the tipping point when more than half of the world’s population will be online.”

The web inventor disclosed that when sharing his experience he gets concerned reactions from people who want to know how to get the other half of the world connected. He said they also ask if the rest of the world would want to connect to the web we have today.

He highlighted the existing threats to the web ranging from misinformation and questionable political advertising to a loss of control over personal data.

Despite these challenges, Tim Berners-Lee emphasized his commitment towards a free, open and creative web for everyone.

“That vision is only possible if we get everyone online, and make sure the web works for people. I founded the Web Foundation to fight for the web’s future” he stated during his call.

Tim Berners-Lee recommended ways of  fighting against  threats which include closing the digital divide, making the web work for people and bringing more voices to debate on the web’s future.

He described the digital divide between people who have internet access and those who do not as deepening existing inequalities and posing  a serious global threat.

 “To be offline today is to be excluded from opportunities to learn and earn, to access valuable services, and to participate in democratic debate. If we do not invest seriously in closing this gap, the last billion will not be connected until 2042. That’s an entire generation left behind”.

Tim Berners-Lee pointed out that  the UN declaration of internet access as a human right in 2016, puts it on the same level with the provision of  clean water, electricity, shelter and food and also the recently adopted Alliance for Affordable Internet’s threshold for affordability of 1GB of mobile data for less than 2% of average monthly income by the UN.

However, he stressed on the need for additional effort to reach the envisaged target, as the cost of 1GB of mobile broadband remains over 20% of average monthly income in some countries.

In addition, Tim Berners-Lee made reference to the way the web has evolved from being a rich selection of blogs and websites to a web that has been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms which has had adverse effect on opinion of people as regards what they see and share online.

According to him, the dominant platforms are able to lock in their position by creating barriers for competitors. They acquire startup challengers, buy up new innovations and hire the industry’s top talent.

He suggested a legal or regulatory framework that accounts for social objectives as a way out.

Concluding his remarks, Tim Berners-Lee called for the brightest minds from business, technology, government, civil society, the arts and academia to join forces together to tackle the threats to the web’s future.

He also called on stakeholders to support policies and business models that expand access to the world’s poorest through public access solutions, such as community networks and public WiFi initiatives.

Furthermore, he urged for investment in securing reliable access for women and girls, and empowering them through digital skills training.

“Today, I want to challenge us all to have greater ambitions for the web. I want the web to reflect our hopes and fulfil our dreams, rather than magnify our fears and deepen our divisions.

At the Web Foundation, we are ready to play our part in this mission and build the web we all want. Let’s work together to make it possible,” Berners-Lee said.

Digital Switchover Launched in Enugu, as it Joins Plateau, Kwara, Kaduna, FCT

Mallam Is’haq Modibo Kawu, Director General, National Broadcasting Commission.
Mallam Is’haq Modibo Kawu, Director General, National Broadcasting Commission.

The Digital Switchover (DSO) was officially launched in the Nigerian Coal City of Enugu on February 12, 2018, joining Plateau, Kwara, and Kaduna States as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, speaking at the launch, noted that after working for 2 years on the Digital Switchover in Enugu, it has now become a reality, delivering crystal-clear television viewing  to people in Enugu.

The event was attended by the Governor of Enugu State, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; the Chairman, House Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values, Honourable Olusegun Odebunmi; the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed; the Chairman DIGITEAM Nigeria, the Press and other stakeholders of the Nigerian DSO project.

The Director General detailed all the work and events leading up to the Digital Switchover in Enugu. These  included meetings with the Board and the Expanded Board, training programs for members of staff and  a content financing workshop for young Nigerian Content Providers, among others.

He noted that Enugu is a city of friendly people that has a welcoming ambience, an accommodating spirit, a long history and  a source of attraction with its unique beauty. He explained that the people of Enugu had anticipated this launch for a while, since the announcement of Enugu as one of the first six pilot states. He also noted that people in Enugu had started selling set top boxes before the launch which was indicative of the feeling of the new digital experience usually witnessed in the states where DSOs have been launched.

DG Kawu also explained the work done on the Digital Switchover beginning with the initial pilot phase in Jos, Plateau in 2016 which included a multiplex of 15 broadcast channels. He noted that the DSO in Jos provided vital lessons on how to work with different stakeholders in order to deliver the outlined goals in the new process highlighting these stakeholders to include DIGITEAM Nigeria; the Signal Distributors; Content Providers; the Set Box Manufacturers; the Content Aggregator; Call Center Operator and the Middleware provider.

The Director General explained that the process was carried out with thorough and total publicity and the lessons learnt were sufficient to embolden the stakeholders to take further steps in the DSO process by launching in six states, each representing the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria.

During his speech, Kawu explained that the DSO had taken place in  Osun,  Kwara and Kaduna states.  He also stated that the initial round is to be concluded in Delta and Gombe before preliminary work begins on the next six states.

He was excited to state that Nigeria is gradually making a transition from analogue to digital broadcasting, a development he described as a major achievement for the Nigerian government and its people.
Finally, he noted that the opportunity of the Digital Switchover will bring valuable add-ons to the Nigerian people and economy, allowing for enhanced Nigerian content, innovation, creativity, entertainment, Video-on-Demand (VoD); internet facilities; interactivity; Electronic Program Guide and including the vital process of audience measurement which will spike advertisement in the broadcasting industry.

2018 Civil Society Policy Forum Holds in Washington DC

Christine Lagarde, IMF Managing Director
Christine Lagarde, IMF Managing Director

The 2018 Spring Meetings Civil Society Policy Forum organised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group (WBG) will hold  in Washington DC from Tuesday, April 17 to Friday, April 20, 2018.

The Spring Meetings will bring together central bankers, ministers of finance and development, parliamentarians, private sector executives, representatives from civil society organizations and academics to discuss issues of global concern, including the world economic outlook, poverty eradication, economic development, and aid effectiveness.

 The Civil Society Policy Forum (CSPF) will feature seminars, regional briefings, press conferences, and many other events focused on the global economy, international development, and the world’s financial system.

 The program will also include an orientation session on the World Bank Group; a roundtable discussion with World Bank Group Executive Directors; and CSO-organized, policy dialogue sessions that reflect the diversity of CSO policy concerns.

 CSOs expected at the forum include non-governmental organizations, community groups, labor unions, indigenous peoples movements, faith-based organizations, professional associations, foundations, think tanks, charitable organizations, and other not-for-profit organizations.

Representatives from the private sector, academia or governmental bodies must apply for accreditation through the “Guests” or other respective registration category as clarified on the main 2018 Spring Meetings website. https://www.imf.org/external/Spring/2018/index.htm

The Civil Society Policy Forum (CSPF) will only be opened to CSO representatives who have been accredited to the 2018 Spring Meetings through an online registration portal.  https://registration.worldbank.org/profile/form/index.cfm?PKformID=0x18792abcd

All CSO applications will go through an initial review by the Civil Society Team of the World Bank Group to ensure that the applicants represent CSOs involved in international development policy operations and/or dialogue on issues relevant to the work of the Bank Group and IMF.

Once this criteira is met, applications are reviewed by the relevant Executive Directors’ offices (based on the country where the CSO is based or mainly operates and/or the nationality of the requester) for clearance. The Executive Directors have eight working days to review the requests for registration.

At the end of this process, the participants will be notified by email of the final decision. There is no limit on the number of applicants from a single organization, but each applicant must apply individually.

CSOs are encouraged to apply early, to allow for the relevant reviews and clearances since the applications approval process can take up to 21 days, and to give themselves enough time to make travel and visa arrangements.

The Civil Society Policy Forum (CSPF) has become an integral part of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group Spring and Annual Meetings, providing an open space for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to dialogue and exchange views with World Bank Group and IMF staff, their peers, government delegations, and other stakeholders on a wide range of topics.

Registration closes on March 30, 2018

Media Rights Agenda Inducts Accident Investigation Bureau into FOI Hall of Shame

Engnr. Akin Olateru Commissioner/CEO
Engnr. Akin Olateru, Commissioner/CEO, Accident Investigations Bureau (AIB)

Lagos, Monday, 19 March, 2018: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today inducted the Accident Investigations Bureau (AIB) into its “Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame”, saying it is clear that transparency has never been a hallmark of the agency either in its operations or as a guiding principle as it has consistently shrouded its activities in secrecy.

MRA criticized the AIB for failing to structure its operations and activities to involve the FOI Act, observing that a thorough search of the AIB’s website reveals that the Bureau does not even acknowledge the existence of the Act, as if the Law has nothing to do with it.

The Accident Investigation Bureau is established by section 29 of the Civil Aviation Act, 2008 as an autonomous agency that reports to the President of Nigeria through the Minister of State for Aviation, and is headed by a Commissioner, who is also the Chief Executive Officer. The Bureau, which is under the Ministry of Transportation, is charged with the responsibility of investigating any civil aircraft accident and serious incident arising out of or in the course of air navigation occurring in or over Nigeria.

In a statement in Lagos, Mr.  Ayode Longe, MRA’s Programme Director, observed that despite having a functioning website and other resources at its disposal, the AIB has failed to comply with its obligation to proactively disclose some classes of information in accordance with Section 2(3), (4) and (5) of the FOI Act in what appears to be a deliberate decision to disregard or violate the provisions of the Act.

He noted that “There is no discernible reason why the Bureau has not been able to proactively publish the 16 heads of information required to be published by the Act and ensure that the information is widely disseminated and made readily available to members of the public through various means as required by the Act or at the very least, at its office and on its website.”

MRA also observed that for nearly seven years since the FOI Act came into force, the AIB has not designated any officer to whom requests for information should be sent, in utter disregard of Section 2(3) (f) of the Act, while it has also never, during the same period since the effective date of the Act, submitted a single FOI implementation report to the Attorney General of the Federation as required by Section 29 (1) (a – h) of the FOI Act and in accordance with the provisions of the Guidelines on the Implementation of the FOI Act issued by the Attorney General of the Federation.

According to Mr. Longe, notwithstanding the provisions of Section 13 of the FOI Act, there is no evidence that the AIB has provided the required training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information or to enable relevant officials to effectively implement the Law at any time in the last seven years.

He said there was no indication that AIB has ever responded to any request for information since the Act was passed.

MRA also urged the Attorney-General of the Federation to explore administrative measures to ensure that that the AIB and other public institutions to which the FOI Act applies take their duties and obligations under the Act seriously and respect the rights of Nigerians to public information, which is also a fundamental right of citizens of all countries, established under international law.

Launched on July 3, 2017, the FOI Hall of Shame focuses attention on public officials and institutions that are undermining the effectiveness of the FOI Act through their actions, inactions, utterances and decisions.

For further information, please contact:

Ridwan Sulaimon
Programme Manager, Freedom of Information
Media Rights Agenda, Lagos
E-mail:  sulaimon@mediarightsagenda.net

MRA Calls for Speedy Presidential Assent to Digital Rights and Freedom Bill

President Muhammadu Buhari
Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Lagos, Friday, March 16, 2018: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today called on President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill into law as soon as he receives it from the National Assembly, saying it is the most practical way for his Administration to demonstrate its support for Internet freedom for Nigerians.

In a statement in Lagos, MRA applauded the leadership of National Assembly for the speedy passage of the Bill by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and urged them to ensure that a clean copy reaches the President for signature in the shortest time possible in order to bring their efforts to fruition.

The Bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives on December 19, 2017, was similarly passed by the Senate earlier this week, on Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA), described the proposed Law as “a strong piece of legislation that seeks to effectively protect the rights of Nigerians on the Internet and in the digital environment in accordance with the global norms and standards that Nigeria has helped to establish.”

Calling on President Buhari to assent to the Bill without delay and thereby demonstrate his willingness to protect the rights of all Nigerians online as they are protected offline, he said: “The Bill provides a comprehensive framework for the advancement, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet and in the digital environment, consistent with Nigeria’s regional and international obligations under various international human rights instruments, some of which Nigeria has led in bringing into being by co-sponsoring”.

For instance, Mr Ojo said, “Nigeria played a leading role on the global stage in 2012 when it led in co-sponsoring the landmark Resolution on the Promotion, Protection and Enjoyment of Human Rights on the Internet at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, alongside Sweden, the United States, Brazil, Turkey and Tunisia, wherein it was affirmed that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression, which is applicable regardless of frontiers and through any media of one’s choice.”

Observing that the resolution has brought Nigeria tremendous respect and acclaim from around the world, he urged the President to sign the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill “in keeping with the groundbreaking direction and guidance which this Resolution provided to the global community on human rights online.”

In addition, Mr. Ojo said, the Digital Rights and Freedom Act will help boost an innovative environment for Nigerians, as well as accelerate the country’s development in the digital age by allowing all Nigerians take maximum advantage of emerging opportunities, adding that this will be beneficial to the government and its efforts to ensure the economic growth of Nigeria including though its recent Enabling Business Environment initiative.

Mr. Ojo added that: “The Bill, when it becomes Law, will bring Nigeria’s domestic law, policy and practices with regards to the protection of human rights on the Internet into conformity with this international norm that we were central as a nation in developing and bequeathing to the global community.”

MRA also called on all other stakeholders, especially the media and civil society actors, to lend their voices to the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill by advocating for speedy presidential assent and subsequently, to monitor its implementation and ensure that its provisions are applied in practice.

Mr. Ojo said: “This piece of legislation will ultimately impact the personal and professional lives of every Nigerian who is connected to the Internet as well as those who will be connected in the future. It is therefore essential for all stakeholders to contribute to this process in every way possible including through advocacy, by writing about it, facilitating discussions and debates, playing their roles in ensuring its implementation and encouraging other members of society to do so as well.”

He also praised Paradigm Initiative for leading and coordinating the multi-stakeholder efforts that characterized the development and drafting of the Bill and resulted in its speedy passage by the National Assembly, saying it has once again demonstrated the power of civil society to positively affect the fortunes of Nigeria and Nigerians.

For further information, please contact:

Ms Morisola Alaba
Legal Officer, Media Rights Agenda
morisola@mediarightsagenda.net

Journalists Barred from Covering President Buhari’s Visit to Benue State

Muhammadu Buhari President Federal Republic of Nigeria
Muhammadu Buhari
President Federal Republic of Nigeria

On March 12, 2018, the Presidency barred correspondents of some media houses from covering President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to Makurdi, Benue State.

Only correspondents from seven media houses: News Agency of Nigeria, Daily Sun, Voice of Nigeria, Daily Trust, Leadership, The Guardian and Daily Independent, out of the about 30 correspondents from various media organisations operating in the state were allowed to cover the President’s visit.

The Punch correspondent, who went to the Benue State Government House to cover the visit, was told that his medium was not accredited  for the event.

The Punch newspapers disclosed that checks conducted by it revealed that a directive emanated from the Presidency demanding that the number of media organisations to cover the visit be restricted to seven.

Operatives of the Directorate of State Services (DSS) took over security affairs of the visit.