CITAD decries violation of citizens’ rights online, seeks FG’s assent to Bill

By Chimezie Godfrey

The Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has decried the rising cases of harassment and detention of Nigerian citizens online in the country.

In a statement, the Program Officer, Digital Rights, Ali Sabo drew the attention of the Nigerian authorities and other stakeholders to bring to an end the continued harassment and detention of the citizens online in the country.

According to him, these harassments and continued detentions of the citizens without following due process negates the principles of democracy which is being practiced in Nigeria and absolute abuse of the human rights of the citizens as enshrined in the 1999 constitution as amended.

Sabo recalled that last month the Centre held a press conference which it called on the Nigeria Government to assent to the Digital rights Bill in the country which would pave ways for digital development and guaranteed citizens’ rights and protection on the internet.

He therefore stressed that the Digital Rights Bill if passed would guarantee application of the human rights which apply offline within the digital environment and online and would also ensure due process with regard to arrest of anybody deemed to have committed any offence. 

He stressed that the increased arrest of citizens by the Nigerian security agencies on the order of some state governors is a dangerous trend and infringement of the fundamental rights of Nigerians.

He said,”To highlight some of the examples, on the 11th of December, 2022, a minor named Umar Garba was arrested in Nguru Local Government Area, Yobe State over an alleged defamation of character of the Yobe State Governor, Maimala Buni. The boy was held captive by the Nigeria Police for more than two weeks without a court order or any arrest warrant. Similarly, the boy was not taken to court up to the time of his release 

“It would be recalled that another youth, a 500 level student of the Federal University, Dutse, Aminu Adamu was also arrested last month over alleged defamation of character of the wife of the president, Mrs. Aisha Buhari. Similar case had also happened in Kano State were two Tiktokers were arrested, detained and beaten for alleged defamation of character of the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje. If these arrests are allowed to continue the country is going to be turned into an authoritarian one where citizens will not have the rights to express themselves online.

“These arbitrary arrests of the citizens are against the Nigerian constitution and international covenant of human and people’s rights. Section IV of the Nigerian Constitution has clearly stated that: Any person who is arrested or detained in accordance with section (1) (C) of this section shall be brought before a court of law within reasonable time. The expression of reasonable time under this section means: 

“In case of an arrest or detention in any place where there is court of competent jurisdiction within a radius of 40 kilometres, a period of one day; and

“In any other case, a period of two days or such longer period as in the circumstances may be considered by the court to be reasonable.

“Digital Rights are the logical and legitimate extension of our fundamental human rights. They are therefore protected in our constitution and all the international instruments on human to which Nigeria is a signatory and the country is duty bound to accord the same respect to rights online as rights offline. 

“Consequently, , we call on the following stakeholders to adhere to the followings:

“The Nigeria Police should desist from arbitrary arrest of the citizens and ensure they are following due process in the arrest and detention of the citizens.”

He added,”The Nigeria Police should avoid the unlawful detention of the citizens and ensure every arrest made is with an order of a competent court.

“Anybody arrested for any offence shall be taken to court within specified period of time as in the Nigeria constitution.

“The President should ensure the speedy assent of the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill as soon as it is transmitted to him as this will bring an end to the arbitrary arrest of the citizens by the Nigerian Security Agencies.”

The Program Officer urged Civil Society Organizations to join hands to call on the Nigeria security agencies to stop the arbitrary arrest of the citizens without due process 

He stressed that the CSOs should collaboratively work together for a sustained advocacy to ensure that the bill is to be passed and assented by the president.