By Ezra Ukanwa –  Abuja

A Civil Society Organisation, CSO, Gatefield, on Tuesday, called on the Federal Government, FG, to ensure that Freedom of Information, FOI, Act is domesticated across all the states.

This is even as he appealed to the government to uphold digital rights of its citizens, adding that if done, it would ensure transparency at all levels of governance.

This advocacy was made during a press briefing in Abuja by its Senior Associate, Planning, Advocacy and External Engagement officer, Mr Chukwuma Edozie.

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According to him, Nigeria currently has 109 millions internet users, pegging the country amongst the top six highest internet users in the world, the rise of internet usage in Nigeria has increased online civic space engagement, advocacy and mobilisation.

He noted that the usage of the internet had also increased reliance on digital journalism, democratising the flow of information traditionally controlled by newspapers, magazine, radio and Television companies.

“The online Civic space serves as a refuge for citizens, including marginalised groups, to raise their voices and influence change, while digital media serves as an effective tool to raise awareness on key social-political issues.

“However, the use of the internet comes with unique challenges and emerging issues. Some of these include citizens’ data protection, freedom of expression online, internet governance, regulation, shutdowns, online privacy and surveillance.

“These issues present the necessity of the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill (DRFB). The DRFB is a proposed legislation that seeks to protect digital rights, including the right to online privacy, freedom of expression, information.

“It also involve the right to peaceful assembly online, and the right to create public knowledge. The DRFB is important because it tackles issues such as censorship, the prohibition of hate speech and content blocking,” he said.

Edozie pointed out that the DRFB bill was passed at the National Assembly in 2019, but it was not signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari due to technical issues perceived on the bill.

According to him, Nigeria is currently a signatory to the UN resolution, instituted in 2016 which affirm that civil, political, economic and social rights offline must also be protected online.

He said that Nigeria being a signatory to the UN resolution means that the government has officially acknowledged that digital rights are enshrined in human rights.

He, therefore, called on policymakers to revisit the bill for passage.

“if signed into law the DRFB, it will safeguard Nigeria digital space against unlawful shutdown, guarantee freedom of expression and assembly online”, he said.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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