By Emma Okonji
A new report that explores the state of digital rights and privacy in Nigeria that was launched by Paradigm Initiative, a Pan-African Digital Rights and Inclusion organisation, is seeking for the repeal and re-enactment of the Cybercrime Act 2015, among others.
The report, which was launched during a recent civil society webinar on Nigeria’s draft data protection bill focused on Nigeria’s political and policy environment as well as practices around digital rights and privacy.
Aside recommending the repealing and re-enactment of the Cybercrimes Act 2015, the report also recommended the passage of the digital rights and freedom bill and the data protection bill, in order to raise public awareness of citizens on data protection.
It also recommended a review of certain regulations by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to include judicial and public accountability in order to address the potential for abuse and abuses occasioned by the politics of regime preservation.
Since the Cybercrime Act was passed by former President Goodluck Jonathan at the time he was leaving office in 2015, there had been agitations from different quarters of the country, calling for the repeal and review of the Act, which according to them, “is punitive rather than corrective.”
Before the enactment of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act 2015 the Advanced Fee Fraud and Other related offences Act, 1995, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, 2004 and the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 regulated cybercrimes in Nigeria, however these Acts were inadequate to regulate cybercrimes and this raised an urgent need for the enactment of a Cybercrime Law.
Section 5 to Section 36 of the Cybercrime Act, contains offences punishable under the Act and penalties in respect of the offences. Section 5 of the Act prescribes the punishment for a person who commits an offence contrary to the critical national information infrastructure. Such person would be liable under to 10 years imprisonment. If the act causes bodily harm to any person, 15 years imprisonment, if the act causes death to another, life imprisonment.
Section 6 of the Act criminalizes unlawful access to a computer. Section 6(1) provides that any person who without authorization, intentionally accesses in whole or in part a computer system or network for fraudulent purposes and obtain data that are vital to national security commits an offence and would be liable to five years imprisonment or fine not less than N5,000,000 or both. If the person has an intent to obtain computer data, the punishment is seven years.
Some of the agitations were that the penalties for some offenses were harsh and could stifle business growth, while the fines were not commensurable with the offenses.
While analysing the report and the webinar, Senior Program Manager at Paradigm Initiative, Adeboye Adegoke, said: “Given the work that we do, part of our advocacy objectives is to ensure that the development of digital policy receives quality inputs from us. Our focus is clear in this regard; rights, inclusion, and innovation. We will advocate against draft legislation/policy that seeks to limit rights, stifle innovation or widen access gaps and we will support those who seek to promote access, rights, and innovation.”
The Chief Operating Officer at Paradigm Initiative, Nnenna Paul-Ugochukwu in her remarks recognised that PIN represents a lot of other voices within the civil society space and this explains why the webinar and the report launch were held together, to present the organisation’s research output and to capture the views of other civil society organisations in its submission to the federal government on the draft data protection bill.