A coalition of civil society organisations in Nigeria has sent a memo to the National Information Technology Development Agency of Nigeria (NITDA), recommending changes to the provisions of the Internet Code of Practice released by the Agency recently.
In the memo, a copy of which was sighted by Nairametrics, the coalition notes that while the draft code of practice represents an opportunity to protect the digital rights of Nigerians online, it should not be used in the same vein to stifle, harass and unlawfully surveil citizens and users.
The group also frowned at what they described as an attempt to circumvent powers allotted to other relevant agencies such as the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), amongst others, through some provisions of the Code.
Recommendations to NITDA
- Putting forward their recommendations to the Agency, the group said: “As a coalition of organisations committed to the preservation of the digital rights and safety of all those existing within Nigeria, we recommend that the following amendments be made to this draft code of practice:
- The code has contradictory stipulations, e.g. Part I on RESPONSIBILITIES OF INTERACTIVE COMPUTER SERVICE PLATFORMS/INTERNET INTERMEDIARIES stipulates content flagged as illegal within 24 hours — yet Part II asks that verifications first be made.
- Internet governance covers a wide range of stakeholders, which include children, minority groups, academics, journalists and content creators, businesses as well as various government organisations. These multiple stakeholders need to be visibly involved in the internet governance process, from consultation to certain levels of decision-making and implementation. Considerations should include a governance board with these stakeholders represented adequately.
- Part II on ADDITIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES provides that data be stored, including information that has been deleted or flagged by the government. No mention was made of how long such data can be held. Indefinite access to user data that is no longer available to the user contravenes the right to be forgotten in the NDPR and breaches the right to privacy. NITDA, the enforcer of the regulation, raises concerns about the ability of the agency to provide oversight over itself.
- Constitutionally, Nigeria ensures that no arm of government is left to its whims, and although court orders are mentioned in Part I mainly, there are no further stipulations for supervisory functions over NITDA, especially as there are no additional instances of oversight relating to Point 5.
- Transparency reports are released to the public by the private sector based on accountability, which should be modelled on reporting mechanisms made by interactive computer service platforms/internet intermediaries. The government should also commit to transparency around the disclosure of requests. These should include the details of the government’s (both state and federal) requests for action posts and accounts. The obligation should be fulfilled through the publication of a transparency report publicly that will highlight the number and nature of requests from the government.”
The memo was signed by 12 civil society organisations, which include Paradigm Initiative, TechHerNG, Avocats Sans Frontières France, Human Rights Journalists Network, Enough is Enough Nigeria, Impact Foundation For Youths Development, Afrika Youth Movement, and Voice Of the Vulnerable. Others are Tech Hive Advisory, Ikigai Innovation Initiative, Smith Nwokocha, and International Press Institute (IPI