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Why digital rights should be protected in Nigeria – ASF

…French agency trains judges, and lawyers on online rights

An international human rights organization, Avocats Sans Frontières France (ASF France), also known as Lawyers Without Borders, has added a fresh twist to the abuse of digital rights in Nigeria.

While stressing the need to sensitise Nigerians about digital rights, the organisation advised that “human rights which are traditionally protected offline should also be protected and respected online.”

The Country Director of ASF France, Angela Uwandu Uzoma-Iwuchukwu, raised the concerns in Abuja on Monday during the opening ceremony of a two-day e-rights training for judges and lawyers on digital rights, Monday in Abuja with the theme, “Promoting freedom of speech on the digital space.”

According to her, the 2023 general elections and subsequent court cases worsened cases of violation of human rights on the internet in Nigeria.

She said the ASF was developing a platform under the e-rights project
where incidents of digital rights violations could be reported by citizens, activists and journalists.

Uzoma-Iwuchukwu said, “This will create a platform for us to track and be able to have verifiable statistics of digital rights violations in Nigeria. We are not limiting today’s activity to only judges in the FCT. In the next two few days, we’re also going to be training lawyers and judges from Kano states, we will follow that up with Lagos and Imo states.

“This is because these four states are the key pilot of the project. And we’re hoping that by starting off this conversation with the judiciary and the legal community in Nigeria, we are contributing to the improvement of digital rights in Nigeria and particularly promotion of digital rights like freedom of expression, privacy rights, data protection of Nigerians on digital platforms.”

Digital rights violations in 2023 election

She said, “If you’re looking at the population of Nigeria, also look at key incidents that might have also triggered an increase in digital rights violations such as the elections and everything that happened during the electioneering phase, including building up to the judgments by the tribunal and then the appeal courts. So we know that all of that has not only impacted on civic participation in terms of creating a platform for young people to really engage, but it has also exacerbated the digital rights violations in the country in various forms.

“So these are some of the indices that we can look at if we want to compare Nigeria to other countries which have not held their elections. We can also tell that in other countries where you have upcoming elections in Africa, this is one of the key things that the electorate might want to monitor and the authorities in terms of deterrence.”

The Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Justice Husseini Baba-Yusuf, represented by Justice Ngozika Ndukwe-Nwabulu, said the significance of a training on digital rights cannot be overemphasized in an increasingly interconnected world, where the digital realm intertwines with every facet of our lives..

The CJ assured that the judiciary would ensure that the rights of Nigerians, whether offline or online would protected.

Justice Baba-Yusuf said the training of the lawyers and judges could be highly useful for a variety of reasons.

“It equips individuals and professionals with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the complex landscape of digital technologies, online communication, and the legal and ethical considerations that accompany them.

“The training will also provide an insight into laws and regulations related to digital technologies, including data protection, intellectual property, cybercrime, and internet governance.

“Understanding these laws can help individuals and organizations avoid legal issues and ensure compliance. Digital rights training often includes cybersecurity awareness, which is crucial in protecting oneself and organizations from cyber threats, data breaches, and online harassment.”

The Vice President of ASF France, Ivan Paneff, said the challenges of rights abuse on the internet space does not only affect Nigeria, adding that the invention of new tools, legislations, text and international agreement underscored the need to tackle the abuses in the electronic era.