NIGERIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net blogging gaining momentum following a 2008 Nigerian bloggers’ conference.31 Although two attempts to create Nigerian blog aggregators failed,32 GlobalVoicesOnline.org, Blogger.com, Afrigator.com, and WordPress.com are popular platforms for Nigerian bloggers to interact and learn from one another. The popularity of blogs has influenced the traditional media environment, with major newspapers adding interactive features to their websites. For example, 6 of the 10 most visited Nigerian websites as of July 2010 are owned by newspapers that have embraced the blogging culture.ICTs have also played an important role in mobilizing people for “real life” protests and providing updates on unfolding events. In November 2008, a widely circulated YouTube video showed an admiral and several other military officers severely beating a woman who they deemed too slow in making way for their convoy.34 Following a public outcry, and with legal aid from the state government, the woman sued the officers for assault and battery. In January 2010, a court awarded her 100 million naira (US$670,000) in compensation.35 In another instance, BlackBerries were a key factor in galvanizing thousands of young professionals for a March 2010 political rally held in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, to protest a wide range of problems, including poor infrastructure, fuel shortages, and power blackouts.36 Civil society groups and candidates are also using new media tools ahead of Nigeria’s 2011 elections. Popular citizen-initiated campaigns include the Save Nigeria Group,37 the Enough Is Enough Nigeria coalition,38 and the “Nigerians Say No to Ibrahim Babangida as President” Facebook group.39 Prospective presidential candidates such as celebrity journalist Dele Momodu, former governor Donald Duke, former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida,40 and the current president are using websites, mobile-phone text messages, e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook to reach potential voters and run their campaigns.
Particularly notable during the latter part of 2010 was President Goodluck Jonathan’s use of 31 ‘ Gbenga Sesan, “The Nigerian Bloggers’ Forum,” Oro (blog), September 22, 2005, http://www.gbengasesan.com/blog/p=10.
The Nigerian Blog Aggregator was available at http://www.nigerianbloggers.com and the Nigerian Weblog Ring was at http://nwr.cowblock.net.
“Most Visited Nigerian Websites in July 2010,” Web Trends Nigeria, August 9, 2010, http://webtrendsng.com//blog/mostvisited-nigerian-websites-in-july-2010.
Brutalization of Uzoma Okere (YouTube, November 10, 2008), 1 min., 40 sec., http://www.youtube.com/watchv=VHdkyvn41us.
“Uzoma Okere Won N 100 Million,” Nigerian Curiosity (blog), January 29, 2010, http://www.nigeriancuriosity.com/2010/01/uzoma-okere-won-n100-mn-video.html.
Stephanie Busari, “Rare Anger as Nigerian Youth Hit Streets,” CNN, March 16, 2010, http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/africa/03/16/nigeria.youth.protests/index.html.
The group’s website is located at http://www.savenigeriagroup.com.
The coalition’s website is located at http://www.enoughisenoughnigeria.com.
“Nigerians Say No to Ibrahim Babangida as President,” Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/pages/YOUTH-SAY-NO-TOEVIL-GENIUS-IBB-IN-2011/114209978613655#!/group.phpgid=116661691680343&ref=ts.
These three men’s campaign-related websites are located at http://www.delemomodu2011.com, http://www.donalddukeorganisation.org, and http://www.voteibb.org, respectively.
NIGERIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net Facebook, earning him the label “Facebook President.”41 The president’s daily profile updates emerged as a popular avenue for public engagement. Citizen comments to the page have been known to influence high-level policy making, such as a July 2010 decision to reverse a ban on the country’s football team.42 Similarly, the president’s formal declaration of his candidacy for the 2011 electoral race was first announced on Facebook.43 In December 2010, he released a book compiling his interactions with citizens via the socialnetworking website.VIOLATIONS OF USER RIGHTS Nigeria’s legal framework is fairly archaic, as many laws have not been updated to reflect modern realities, including the use of new media technologies.45 This lack of internetspecific legislation has generally fostered an open environment for online activities. In recent years, the government has introduced several bills that could be used to restrict users’ rights to free expression and privacy, though their passage in the near future is unlikely due to the expected elections in early 2011. Much of the public accepts the need for some regulation of internet use in light of the unchecked cybercrime in the country, and the costs it has imposed on Nigeria’s economy and global reputation.
The 1999 constitution guarantees freedom of expression and of the press, but the state often uses arbitrary and extralegal measures to suppress political criticism in the media, and there is a culture of impunity for crimes against media workers. Libel remains a criminal offense, and the burden of proof rests with the defendant. Journalists covering sensitive issues such as official corruption, the president’s health, and communal violence are regularly subjected to criminal prosecution. However, no such cases have yet been brought for online expression.46 The implementation of Sharia (Islamic law) penal codes in northern states has generally not affected internet freedom. However, in March 2010, a George Webster, “Goodluck Jonathan: The Facebook President,” October 1, 2010, http://articles.cnn.com/2010-1001/tech/goodluck.jonathan.facebook.profile_1_facebook-fans-popular-social-networking-site-nigerian-president.
“Facebook influences Nigeria football team ban U-turn,” British Broadcasting Network (BBC), July 6, 2010, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10525699.
“Formal Declaration of Dr Jonathan Ebele Goodluck For President 2011,” Nigerians For Goodluck/Sambo Ticket on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/topic.phpuid=147860418583907&topic=210, accessed February 11, 2010.
David Olagunju, "Between Jonathan and his friends," Nigerian Tribune, January 3, 2010, http://tribune.com.ng/index.php/politics/15546-between-jonathan-and-his-friends.
For example, the Evidence Act does not provide for the acceptance of digital evidence in court, although an appellate court in Lagos ruled in May 2010 that computer-generated bank statements could be admitted in the graft trial of a former minister.
Patience Akpuru, “Nigeria: Fani-Kayode Appeal Court Admits Computer Print-Out,” Daily Champion, May 28, 2010, available at http://allafrica.com/stories/201005310338.html.
Karin Karlekar, ed., “Nigeria,” in Freedom of the Press 2009 (New York: Freedom House, 2009), http://www.freedomhouse.org/inc/content/pubs/pfs/inc_country_detail.cfmcountry=7675&year=2009&pf.
NIGERIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net Sharia judge in Kaduna state banned efforts by the Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria to initiate online discussion of an amputation sentence on Facebook and Twitter.The Nigerian authorities have a history of arresting and intimidating traditional media workers, and at least eight journalists have been killed in connection with their work since 1998.48 Although no individuals had been sentenced to prison or physically attacked for online activities as of mid-2010, security agencies in late 2008 detained and interrogated two overseas bloggers upon their arrival in Nigeria. Jonathan Elendu, author of the website Elendu Reports, was arrested in October 2008 by the State Security Service, which is known to take orders directly from the president. He was reportedly questioned in relation to national security issues and for “sponsoring a guerrilla news agency.”49 Many observers believed he was detained due to an alleged connection with another online platform, Sahara Reporters, that published photographs of President Yar’Adua’s 13-year-old son “waving wads of money around and holding a policeman’s gun,”50 or for falsely reporting during the 2007 presidential election campaign that Yar’Adua had died. Elendu was released after two weeks without facing charges.51 The following month, another U.S.-based online journalist, Emmanuel Emeka Asiwe, editor of the Huhuonline website, was detained. The State Security Service similarly stated that Asiwe was being questioned about “matters of national security,” and released him after a week of interrogation.Nigerian security services do not appear to monitor internet and mobile-phone communications, but many online journalists suspect that they are being monitored by the state. In addition, lawmakers are currently considering measures that could pave the way for comprehensive surveillance. One bill that has raised concerns among free expression advocates is the Cyber Security and Information Protection Agency Bill, introduced in January 2009 and still pending as of mid-2010. Section 29(2) of the bill includes a vague provision that grants power to any law enforcement officer—upon a “reasonable suspicion that an offence has been committed”—to decrypt data or require the holder of subscriber or The case centered on Buba Bello Jangebe, whose hand was amputated in 2000 as punishment for stealing a cow. See Imam Imam, “Nigeria: Sharia Judge Bans Amputation Discussion on Facebook, Twitter,” This Day, March 24, 2010, available at http://allafrica.com/stories/201003240460.html; “Civil Right Congress—Nigeria,” Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/group.phpgid=372845616580; Shehu Sani, “CRC Condemns the Amputation of Buba on March 22, 2000,” Twitter, March 30, 2010, http://www.twitter.com/shehusani.
Committee to Protect Journalists, “8 Journalists Killed in Nigeria Since 1992/Motive Confirmed,” http://www.cpj.org/killed/africa/nigeria/, accessed August 27, 2010.
Ndesanjo Macha, “Nigerian Blogger Arrested for Sponsoring a ‘Guerilla News Agency,’” Global Voices, October 24, 2008, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2008/10/24/nigerian-blogger-arrested-for-sponsoring-a-guerilla-news-agency.
“News Blogger Detained in Nigeria,” British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), October 23, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/7686119.stm. Sahara Reporters stated that Elendu was not on their staff and had nothing to do with the photos.
Reporters Without Borders, “Nigeria: Online Journalist Emmanuel Emeka Asiwe Freed After One Week,” news release, November 18, 2008, available at http://allafrica.com/stories/200811181177.html.
NIGERIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net traffic information to share relevant details and related content.53 There are similar provisions in the Mobile Phone Registration Bill,54 and in the Electronic Fraud Prohibition Bill,55 introduced to the National Assembly in July 2008. As mentioned above, as of December 2010, discussion and passage of these bills had been put on hold given the shifted focus of politicians on expected elections in 2011. As part of efforts to crack down on cybercrime, law enforcement officers have been known to raid cybercafes and randomly stop drivers to ask youth why they have laptops or printed documents (especially e-mail messages) in their possession.
Cybercafes do not require customers to register or present any form of identification, and any “monitoring” software installed on their computers is used only for billing purposes. In June 2009, drawing on the 2003 Nigerian Communications Act, the NCC announced that mobile-phone companies would be expected to register all SIM cards by March 1, 2010 (later postponed to May 1, 2010).56 Although the registration process has commenced, implementation has been slow.
Cybercrime, particularly online fraud and spamming, is a serious problem in Nigeria.
Between 2002 and 2009, the country repeatedly appeared among the top three cybercrime “perpetrator” countries in the annual ranking published by the U.S.-based Internet Crime Complaint Center. 57 In 2007, the government established the Directorate for Cybersecurity to respond to criminal activities related to the internet, granting it a budget of 1.2 billion naira (US$7.8 million).58 The directorate has since ceased to exist, but in August 2010 the government approved the formation of a Computer Crime Prosecution Unit, to be supervised by the Justice Ministry’s Public Prosecution Department.59 Cyberattacks are not prevalent, though the website of the National Assembly was hacked on October 1, 2010 by activists who posted remarks criticizing the ruling elite for poor governance and A Bill For An Act To Provide For The Establishment Of The Cyber Security And Information Protection Agency Charged With The Responsibility To Secure Computer Systems And Networks And Liaison With The Relevant Law Enforcement Agency For The Enforcement Of Cyber Crimes Laws, And For Related Matters, Nigerian National Assembly document (HB. 154), 2010.
A Bill For An Act To Provide For The Registration Of Mobile Telephone Line For Security Reasons And For Matters Related Thereto, Nigerian National Assembly documents (HB. 116), 2010.
A Bill For An Act To Provide For The Prohibition Of Electronic Fraud In All Electronic Transactions In Nigeria And For Other Related Matters, Nigerian National Assembly documents (SB. 185), 2010.
Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Design, Development and Delivery of SIM Card Registration Solution (Abuja: NCC and NIMC, June 15, 2009), http://www.ncc.gov.ng/Headlines/SIM_Registration_RFP.pdf.
National White Collar Crime Center and Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internet Crime Report 2006 (Washington, DC: Internet Crime Complaint Center, 2007), http://www.ic3.gov/media/annualreport/2006_ic3report.pdf.
Shina Badaru, “FG Okays N 1.2 Billion for Cybersecurity Directorate,” This Day, June 4, 2007, available at http://www.cipaco.org/spip.phparticle1272; Hilary Okeke, “DfC Helpless as Scammers Wreck Havoc on Nigerians,” Nigeria Communications Week, July 28, 2008, http://www.nigeriacommunicationsweek.com.ng/details.phpcategory=topnews&id=301.
Gowon Emakpe, “FG Approves Prosecution Unit for Cybercrime,” Next, August 19, 2010, http://www.234next.com/csp/cms/sites/Next/Home/5608571-146/fg_approves_prosecution_unit_for_cyber.csp.