Participants at a workshop on Digital Rights and Cybercrimes have called for increased capacity building for law enforcement agencies on handling issues related to cybercrimes in Nigeria.
The workshop which was organised by Paradigm Initiative in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Justice, focused primarily on section 24 and 38 of the Nigeria’s Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act 2015.
According to Adeboye Adegoke, Program Manager at Paradigm Initiative, “the focus on the two sections was deliberate. We focused on those sections because they are prone to be misapplied to infringe on the digital rights and freedoms of citizens, especially freedom of expression and privacy online. Section 24, in particular, has already been cited in more than ten documented cases of alleged illicit arrest and abuse of rights.”
“Provisions of Sections 24 and 38 of the Act were examined at the workshop as they are believed to be threats to digital rights in Nigeria. Section 24 poses a threat to freedom of expression online while section 38 gives security agencies the right to hold on to citizen’s information, thereby violating their rights to privacy of their information online.”
The workshop which provided an opportunity for participants to review cases of arrests related to sections 24 and 38 of the Act and the effects of these arrests on citizens.
Participants were drawn from the Nigerian Police Force and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from various states in Nigeria and the FCT.
Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative Mr Gbenga Sesan, while introducing participants to Digital Rights, highlighted the importance of the internet to democratic participation in Nigeria.
He stressed that though rights in the digital realm exist, they are not respected.
Sesan spoke on the provisions in the Cybercrimes Act 2015 that give law enforcement agent’s access to citizen’s data and how these provisions are prone to abuse.
He illustrated with examples of ways in which files in government offices and Nigerian courts are currently being handled.
According to him, “Surveillance and Interception must be lawful, with clearly stated procedures and clear judicial oversight to avoid abuse. Respect for human rights in the day to day activities of law enforcement officers helps to foster citizen and security agency cooperation.”
He further stated that, “It is well known that countries that focus on innovation rather than clampdowns avail themselves huge economic opportunities. This can be seen through the relationship between the GDP of those countries and the level of internet penetration and internet freedom”.
Also speaking to participants at the training, Mr. George-Maria Tyendezwa, Head, Computer Crime Prosecution Unit at Federal Ministry of Justice stressed that, “we must differentiate between libel and slander from cyber stalking and that one-time act don’t constitute stalking mentioned in Section 24”.
He advised anyone that feels defamed not to use the apparatus of the state to oppress anyone but to go to court for remedy
According to Tope Ogundipe, Director of Programs at Paradigm Initiative, “we believe that law enforcement agents who participated in the workshop are better equipped in handling and managing cases involving Cybercrime as a result of this workshop. Our objective is to ensure that the Cybercrimes Act 2015 does not become an instrument of oppression in the hands of the powerful using security agencies as tools.”
The workshop was attended by operatives from Abuja, Bauchi, Gombe, Nasarawa, Rivers, Kano, Lagos, Enugu and the FCT.