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Increasing Threats on Free Speech As Political Terrorism

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“Everybody likes to get as much power as circumstances allow, and nobody will vote for a self-denying ordinance.” Lord Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, English Catholic historian, politician, and writer.

One would have thought that the above quote attributed to Lord Acton, which has been captured in another sense as “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” was only relevant to the military and despotic systems of Government, but recent happenings in Nigeria and other supposedly democratic climes have proven that those words are as relevant today as they were in the worst days of military and dictatorial government across the globe.

When the Cybercrime Act 2015 was signed into Law by the erstwhile President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan at the twilight of his administration in 2015, there was a sigh of relief that Nigeria has finally been able to develop its own regulatory framework to tackle the menace of cybercrime.

The enthusiasm could not be faulted given the bad reputation the country has had to grapple with as result of the activities of the famous cybercriminals popularly known as “Yahoo boys” and lately “Yahoo Plus”.

That enthusiasm was however cut short when it became clear that this law has beyond anything else unleashed another form of terror on Nigerians even while the country grapple with conventional terrorism by Boko Haram.

This terror however is about suppression of core values of any democratic system, which includes freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is an important tenet of any democracy and the apparent suppression of voices of dissent or whistleblowers is nothing short of terrorism in another mode.

Attack on Free Speech is a form of terror and we must curse the darkness while we can. While the Nigerian Police refuted the claims by Chidi Odinkalu and others describing the shooting at a Catholic Church in Ozubulu in Anambra State on August 6 2017 as an act of terror, the Police by inference unwittingly admitted that the trend of arrest of citizens over whistle blowing activity is an act of terror.

Abayomi Shogunle , Head of Nigeria Police Rapid response unit argued on his twitter handle which he typically uses to address issues/complaints about the Nigerian Police, that an act of terror must be politically motivated. Given this line of thought, it is clear that even the Police in Nigeria agree that the political class have now resorted to terrorizing Nigerians for expressing opinions online.

Several citizens are currently going through politically motivated prosecutions in the court. Two of those cases are highlighted here being the most recent experiences and considering the status of the actors involved in them (More cases are summarized in the image below).

It is no longer news that the Governor of Kogi state with the help of the Department of State Security services is currently prosecuting a civil servant. His offence, according to news reports, was posting the image of the Abuja residence of the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, using a drone camera.

According to the Guardian Newspaper, he was said to have posted the pictures with a caption: “This building is owned by an individual in Kogi where hunger is the people’s first name” to highlight the affluence of the Governor while Government workers groan and struggle to survive over unpaid salaries and citizens live in abject poverty.

The action, the prosecuting counsel who is also a senior legal officer with the State Ministry of Justice said, put “Governor Yahaya Bello and family into threat and harm to their property” and thereby urged the court to take cognizance of the offence of cyber stalking (relying on section 24 of the cybercrimes Act 2015) against the accused.

The action of the Kogi State Government to say the least is the most barbaric form of high-handedness by anyone in power and a total abuse of privilege by using the State Security Service funded by tax payers for an egoistic pursuit. Well, it must be noted that he has a co-traveller in Nigeria’s Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki.

In an Interview with Punch Newspaper, A 37-year-old primary school teacher in Kwara State, Biodun Baba, who was arraigned before a magistrates’ court in Ilorin for allegedly insulting Senate President Bukola Saraki on Facebook, recounts his ordeal after he reacted to a Facebook post of factional Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state, Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo on the  discharge and acquittal of the Senate President by the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

He commented in the comment section as follows “Somebody believes that he is above everybody, he is not above the judgment of God. If Saraki has been discharged by the CCT, has he been discharged by God?” Two officials of the DSS came and dragged him to their office in Ilorin.

They gave him a form to write an undertaking that he will never abuse the Senate President again. It didn’t stop there; he was taken to court but was lucky to be defended by a group of lawyers who worked pro-bono to defend him in Court.

The cases involving Bukola Saraki and Governor Yahaya Bello are only 2 of many of such occurrences in Nigeria lately. Paradigm Initiative documented at least 8 of such cases in 2016 alone its Digital Rights in Africa annual report for 2016 and there has been at least 10 of such cases in 2017.

If nothing else, the two cases above represent the most recent form of barbaric attacks on free speech by the Nigeria Political class but nothing of a departure from the pattern of previous documented cases.

Drafters of the Cybercrime Act 2015, their intention notwithstanding, have successfully played into the hands of agents of domination, intolerance and leaders who will rather oppress than protect the citizens that elected them.

This has been a pattern in the last 2 years and it will as a matter of fact increase as the 2019 election draws closer. I hate to opine that a law which was supposed to help curb the scourge of cybercrime in Nigeria has hardly done so but has been the tool of oppression in the hand of the powerful.

Unfortunately, this has been the case and there is no end in sight for the abuse and oppression being perpetrated by the political class and the powerful in connivance with security agencies.

This article should not be seen as an attempt to demonize certain political actors but to challenge the system and frameworks that encourage and allows the oppression of fellow citizens to be possible.

In the words of the French republican poet and politician, Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine, “It is not only the slave or serf who is ameliorated in becoming free… the master himself did not gain less in every point of view,… for absolute power corrupts the best natures (Translated from his original work in French)”.

Therefore we shouldn’t be looking at demonizing the actors but at correcting the system and frameworks that makes abuse possible.

Last year, Paradigm Initiative together with Media Rights Agenda and Enough is Enough went to court to challenge the constitutionality of section 24 of the Cybercrimes Act 2015, a lawsuit which has now reached the appeal stage at the Federal Appeal court.

As concerned citizens and civil society, we can only hope and urge the court to expedite the hearing and give judgment in the interest of democracy and the rule of law.  Also, a member of the National Assembly Senator Buhari Abdulfatai representating Oyo state at the Nigerian Senate has sponsored a Bill to repeal and re-enact the Cybercrime Act 2015.

The Bill, SB 450: Cyber Crime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act 2015 (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2017 has only been read once on the floor of the Senate and the content is yet to be made public by the National Assembly (This represents another lacuna in the law making process in Nigeria whereby Bills being discussed by the National Assembly are not accessible to citizens).

The public hearing for this Bill whenever it happens presents an opportunity to address the sections of this Bill currently being exploited by political gladiators to oppress opposing voices.

Adeboye Adegoke @adeboyeBGO is a Digital Rights Advocate and works with Paradigm Initiative

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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Speakers At CFA Startup Hangout Urge Youths to ‘Stay & Invest’ in Nigeria

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(L-r): Wale Ajisebutu, vice-chairman, 21st Century Technologies; Dr. Nkiru Balonwu, managing partner, RDF, both speakers at the October 2017 edition of the CFA's Startups Hangout, with Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata Jnr, Founder, CFAtech.ng, Presenter of Tech Trends on Channels Television and the Convener of the Hangout.

By Justice Okemgba

The October 2017 Edition of the CFA’s Startups Hangout really lived up it’s expectation, as the Startups were fed with priceless nuggets on how to run their businesses successfully and improve on their lives and uplift the nation.

CFA’s Startups Hangout, is an event that brings Startups together to learn how to run and grow their businesses from invited successful entrepreneurs, as well as network with each other.

The two invited speakers for the October 2017 edition, which was held at Adna Hotel, GRA, Ikeja last Friday, were Mr. Wale Ajisebutu, vice-chairman, 21st Century Technologies and Dr. Nkiru Balonwu, Managing Partner, RDF, a Consultancy outfit.

First to speak, was Dr. Nkiru Balonwu. She stated that Startups need to be determined and stay focused, as these are key to achieving what they want to achieve. “Be sure of what you want to do and set milestones for the achievement of goals”, she emphasised.

She admonished the Startups to note each achievements as they are met and also know why they are not met and fight to see that they are met in the end.

She made it known to the Startups that, from her own experience at starting her own business outfit, not everyone will encourage them in their quest, but they should not be deterred. She advised them to seek for sponsors and mentors, but should also be ready to give them something in return.

Nkiru stated that Startups should ensure that whatever it is that they are doing, should be centered around solving a problem for their clients. She gave the example of her own experience, where her personal need to track the income and expenses of her income and expenses, prompted her to develop the Bukkipa App, a simple accounting solution, but she had to ask for inputs from those who are also in need of such a solution, so that they can patronise it.

Wale Ajisebutu, in his presentation to the Startups, gave the narrative of Nigeria as a country blessed by God, with lots of opportunities, which, unfortunately, the citizens are only seeing  and complaining about as problems.

He advised the Startups to stop complaining about what the government has not done and see all the problems that we have in Nigeria in the areas of inadequate water supply, bad roads, poor transportation, scarcity of food and agriculture, etc., as opportunities they can key into and start a business on, because the government cannot do them.

“You cannot see all these kinds of opportunities in England, for instance, because they have light, they have houses and they have roads, etc. You don’t need to run there. If you go there, you will just go and wash toilets and plates”, he observed.

“It was individuals that developed America and not the government”, he stressed. He gave the example of Cornelius Vanderbilt, who invested in and built railroads, John D. Rockefeller Snr, who invested in the oil and oil pipeline business and J. P. Morgan, who invested in the banking industry, all in America.

He stated that a good example of such individual, doing a similar thing in Nigeria, is Aliko Dangote, who invested in problem areas in Nigeria and is today, the richest African in the world.

Wale advocated for the adoption of a four-tier government, namely, Federal, State, Local government as well as Youth and Entrepreneurs, to take care of the interest of SME’s. He advised Startups to work hard, be consistent, dream big, think big, start small, be open, be curious and take risks. “If you do the right thing in your business in Nigeria, you will become a multi-billionaire in any currency”, he assured.

Wale further advised the Startups to build great teams, have good business concepts, build wide network of mentors and cover their costs to stay relevant in the business world. “You are in Nigeria for a purpose. Take advantage of it. The country is for you. You have to build it”, he concluded.

Other attractions during the October 2017 edition of the CFA’s Startups Hangout, include presentations by officials of The Bridge Clinic, who took the Blood Pressure of the Startups that attended the event and TAMS on Time Management, Payroll and Human Resource solutions for the Startups.

The event ended with the networking session, where the Startups interacted with each other to form alliances, friendships as well as synergize their operations.

The November 2017 edition of the CFA’s Startups Hangout, which will be the last for this year, also promises to be an exciting one. Watch out for details @ http://startups.cfatech.ng

 

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U.S. Promotes STEM Education in Nigeria, Trains 460 Students, Teachers on Robotics

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By peter oluka

Monday, the United States Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria, in collaboration with RoboRave International, a U.S.-based robotics education academy, began a week-long robotics workshop for 460 elementary, secondary, and university students, STEM teachers, robotics enthusiasts, and scientists.

The training is being hosted at the American Corner at Co-Creation Hub (CCHUB), Yaba, Lagos (October 23-25) and at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library Complex, Abeokuta, Ogun State (October 26-28).

The workshop seeks to boost technology education in Nigeria by engaging the participating students in hands-on robotics activities to stimulate their interest in math and science as well as careers in the STEM fields.

One hundred (100) robots will be donated free-of-charge to participating schools in Lagos and Ogun states, many of them with little or no experience in robotics.

This is expected to provide the students and their teachers with an opportunity to put their skills to use following the completion of the training.

United States Consul General F. John Bray explained that the U.S. Mission is supporting the capacity building workshop in hopes that participants will be inspired to work collaboratively with the aid of technology to create innovative solutions to shared global challenges.

“In a world that’s becoming increasingly technology-driven, it’s more important than ever before for our youth to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to become innovators, educators, researchers, and leaders who can solve the most pressing challenges facing our world, both today and tomorrow.  We are honored to support this initiative that promotes science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — subjects collectively known as STEM— in Nigeria,” Consul General Bray said.

Mr. Kingsley Imade, program partner and director RoboRAVE Nigeria, explained that the training sessions will be facilitated by an international faculty, including RoboRAVE International Director of Global Programs Russ Fisher-Ives, and RoboRAVE North America Director Brian Montoya.

According to him, the sessions focusing on robotics designs and programming will provide a platform for teachers to learn how to implement the STEM approach in the educational process via practical scientific activities, throughout the training days.

“An education to develop robotics skills places students on track to develop such STEM enabling competencies like critical and computational thinking, collaboration and creativity that has lifelong advantages,” Mr. Kingsley Imade, director, RoboRAVE Nigeria, said.

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Ojobo, NCC Spokesman To Receive ESUT Honours

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By peter oluka

The Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) will on Thursday, October 26 confer an award of Excellence on Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo.

This award ceremony is part of the high point of the Alumni Home Coming and 32nd Anniversary Celebration of the Faculty of Management Sciences.

In a notification letter of the conferment addressed to Ojobo, it was stated that the decision to confer the award on him was taken by the Faculty Board of Management Sciences at its 136th meeting held on September 25, 2017 where it “proudly took cognizance of your remarkable achievements in life, especially in your chosen career as a renowned technocrat and Public Servant, and unanimously nominated you to be conferred with an award of Excellence.”

The letter was jointly signed by Prof. Fredrick O. Eze, Dean Faculty of Management Services and Prof. Ike S. Ndolo, chairman, Alumni Home Coming Committee.

Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State is the Special Guest of Honour, while the Chief Host is the Vice Chancellor, ESUT, Prof. Luke Okechukwu Anike.

The event is due for Dome Event Centre, New Haven, Enugu at 11am.

Ojobo is an Alumnus of ESUT.

The Man Tony Ojobo

Ojobo is an experienced director of Public Affairs with a demonstrated history of working in the telecommunications industry.

Skilled in negotiation, business development, strategic planning, strategy, and public speaking, he is a strong media and communication professional with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) focused in Marketing from ESUT Business School.

Currently, director of Public Affairs at NCC; Ojobo was the director, Human capital and Infrastructure at the Commission between October 2009 – October 2011 (2 years 1 month).

He holds Master’s degree, Public Administration from the University of Lagos (1993); and currently pursuing a doctorate honours in Business Administration, Entrepreneurship/Entrepreneurial Studies at the Walden University.

Ojobo is a certified member, Institute of Public Private Partnership, Washington, DC, USA., and has garnered many awards for his professionalism and outstanding performances at the NCC.

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