The Nigerian Communications Commission sensitises Nigerians about the 2015 Cybercrime Act at the Social Media Week which took place in Lagos
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Mar 7, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT |
CHRIS Kehinde Nwandu, a blogger, who was jailed using provisions of the 2015 Cybercrime Act, for posting a Facebook comment which maligned a bank chief executive, was a ready example of what could happen to social media users who are ignorant of the provisions of the law. Nwandu confessed that he knew nothing of the law and neither did his lawyer when he became the victim. He made the confession on Monday, February 22, when the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, hosted a session to sensitise new media practitioners about the new law at the just concluded Social Media Week, Lagos.
Nwandu said the government and elites in the society see bloggers and journalists as a threat and that online publishing is a problem for them. He added that he believed he was targeted because he is one of the most prolific bloggers in the country.
However, the NCC has warned Nigerians that the cyberspace is not the venue to promote hatred, blackmail or tarnish the character of people as there are laws guiding against such acts. Through a robust panel of professionals from the media, law, public relations and the government, the commission was able to explain what the Act was meant to achieve. The commission stated that the cybercrime Act was not meant to regulate the Internet or Over the Top, OTT, services, but to ensure that everybody acts responsibly on the cyberspace. OTTs are services provided by Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, LinkedIn, BBM among others.
Tony Ojobo, director, Public Affairs, NCC, who represented Umar Garba Danbatta, executive vice chairman of the commission, said the act was put together to ensure a healthy and responsible internet activity. According to him, regulating the Internet or OTT will stifle creativity and innovation, and reduce the accelerated growth Nigeria is already recording in new media development across the world.
“With the new act, every operator whether traditional or OTT will now be responsible for what is put out in the cyberspace through their platform. It is now their challenge to deploy technology that would check espionage, fraud, hackers and all other unwholesome activities that may come to the cyberspace through their platforms.”
He also admitted that the act is not an end to itself in checking cybercrime, since there may be issues that could be raised along its implementation that could lead to amendment in future. “Every law is subject to amendment and the cybercrime act is not an exception. What the industry has done is to raise the awareness and consciousness to see the menace of cybercrime reduced to the barest minimum. It is now the duty of the public to also look at relevant areas that were either ignored or omitted and raise them for subsequent amendment of the act. But fears of it being a measure of regulating the Internet should be dispelled.”
Presenting the executive vice chairman’s speech at the event, Ojobo noted that the cybercrime Act 2015 is an act of parliament which has become law since it was accented to by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on May 15, 2015. He said it was therefore imperative for new media practitioners to familiarise themselves with the contents of the law as it affects their practice.
According to him, the regulator’s objectives should be to catalyse additional opportunities offered by OTT services to the benefit of the consumer and to support competition while avoiding the OTT related risks in the areas of security and data protection. Ojobo said while the commission acknowledges the fears of traditional telecom service providers that traditional telephony and SMS revenues are under threat from newer, IP based alternatives like WhatsApp, Skype, Viber, among others, they should also in turn accept the challenge to innovate and explore more efficient business models that would enable them compete favourably with OTT service providers.
Gbenga Sesan, a participant, said the presentation of the NCC did not satisfy his outstanding concerns over the Cyber Crime law in Nigeria. He said many Nigerians are frustrated because nobody has actually seen a gazetted version of the law. He stated that the law was being used to unfairly target bloggers and journalists, noting that the only people arrested and jailed under its provisions were journalists.