By Joel Popoola
Nigerians may not object to internet shutdowns to stop kidnapping. But did we object to SARS being set up to stop robbery?
No-one would object to the government doing everything in its power to stop the kidnapping gangs terrorising Nigeria’s northern regions and tarnishing our international reputation.
That’s why the residents of Zamfara seem to be broadly supportive of the week-long internet shutdown, initiated as part of a recent security crackdown.
More than nine million Zamfarans were cut off from the internet for several days, as security forces hunted for the kidnap-for-ransom squads who have been plaguing the areas.
“I’m in full support of the ban” one resident told CNN. “Before now, everyone has been living in fear because of the bandits.”
But no-one would object to the idea of specialist police unit being set up to tackle robbery either.
And we all know what happened with SARS.
Internet and social media shutdowns are becoming a more and more pervasive tactic of African leaders stemming and suppressing the flow of information and opinion online – commonly during elections.
These shutdowns are self-defeating, leading to more – not less –unrest, not to mention human rights violations (and international condemnations), elections lacking in credibility at home and abroad, and as we have seen with Nigeria’s disastrous attempts at banning Twitter – economic loss.
We cannot fall into the trap of accepting dangerous measures when they are deployed to deliver desirable ends. This makes it more likely we will instinctively accept if they are used to destroy democracy.
Think of it as frogs in boiling water. If you put a frog in boiling water it will jump out. If you put it in cold water and heat it to boiling it will do nothing until it is too late.
At the digital democracy campaign I lead we have previously called for Nigeria to show continental leadership and amend our constitution to guarantee that our citizens will never have their access to the internet unreasonably or unavoidably restricted.
We are doing that again now.
Nations such as Greece and Costa Rica have already taken this step. But we could be the first in Africa.
This simple move could have a profoundly positive impact on public trust in Nigerian democracy too – trust which study after study has shown to be worryingly low.
If you need proof, just look at the recently published results of a major survey conducted by the African Polling Institute.
The study found that 63% Nigerians scored Federal Government “poor” on fight against corruption and 53% of our citizens believe that impunity thrives in the current administration. 83% also believe impunity amongst government officials is ‘increasing’.
The survey also found social cohesion to be under average in Nigerian. And an internet-protection clause in our constitution could improve that too.
As I have previously said, just think of the impact if Nigerian politicians of all parties and ethnicities came together as one to say the same thing. In 2021, and beyond, internet access is a fundamental human right. And if we put that in our construction we are saying loudly and clearly this: Though we believe in different things, we are all committed to the same democratic values. And we are enshrining this value in law.
At the digital democracy campaign, our primary aim is to employ digital technology to improve Nigeria’s democracy.
We have created a free app – Rate Your Leader – which puts verified voters in direct contact with their elected leaders allowing them to build two-way relationships of trust and transparency and to work together to improve both our communities and our country.
Rate Your Leader lets politicians know what is happening in their areas and what matters most to the people who elect them. It also allows voters to get important information directly from local leaders.
If you have leaders that voters trust, feel connected to, believe share their values and who can demonstrate they are immediately responsive to the needs of the people who elect them, you can build a co-operative collaborative nation, united in the national interest.
This kind of two-way communication, built on honesty and transparency, is what unites us as a nation and let us work together to build a better future. This is the communication democracy needs in the digital age.
Not internet shutdowns.
Joel Popoola is a Nigerian tech entrepreneur, digital democracy campaigner and is creator of the free Rate Your Leader app. He can be reached via @JOPopoola
Lady Abduct, Murder Corper to Snatch Her Boyfriend
The Federal Capital Territory Commissioner of Police, Sunday Babaji, has said the late 26-year-old National Youth Service Corps member, Terungwa Stephanie, was allegedly killed from exposure to a corrosive substance.
The commissioner disclosed this while parading three suspects in connection to her death at the FCT Police Command on Monday in Abuja.
The suspects are: Jenifer Tsembe ‘f’, 26, Monday Simon (a.k.a Black) ‘m’, 36, and Solomon Abu ‘m’, 35.
Babaji revealed that the suspects conspired to kidnap the victim in order for Jennifer to have her alleged lover, one Edward Achadu, all to herself.
He said, “Our investigation revealed that the suspects criminally conspired and murdered the victim to separate her from Edward Achadu so that Jennifer Tsembe, one of the suspects and an estranged lover of Edward, could have him all to herself, especially for pecuniary benefits.
Tsembe told The PUNCH that she only conspired to abduct Jennifer and demand ransom from Achadu, but had no intention to kill her.
She also alleged that one of the other male suspects, Solomon, initiated the plan of the abduction.
However, the other suspects confessed that Tsembe, who is friends with the deceased, had conceived the plan for the deceased to come to her house where she requested their help to tie her upon her arrival. They alleged that after they had played their part, Tsembe instructed them to go away leaving the suspect, deceased and her child behind.
Simon said after he left, Tsembe had called him to say she needed help with the body because the deceased had died. Black, however, alleged that the suspect had already bathed her with acid by the time he arrived at the scene.
The Police commissioner, thereafter, said the Command had intensified investigation to reveal facts that could lead to further arrests of any other fleeing participant(s) in the criminal act.
He said, “The suspects will be charged to court. The command has intensified investigation to reveal facts that could lead to the arrest of any other fleeing participant(s) in the criminal act.
Terungwa Stephanie went missing after she reportedly left home with her one year plus five-months-old son on April 14, 2022, and never returned. Her son was later recovered at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church upon a call placed through to one of the paternal relatives a day after.
Police Declare Fleeing Suspected Killers of Deborah in Viral Video Wanted
The Nigeria Police Force, Sokoto State Command, have declared fleeing suspects captured in viral video of the killing and subsequent setting on fire of Deborah Samuel wanted for culpable homicide.
The deceased, who was, until her death, a 200-level student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, was accused of blasphemy after which some of her classmates among others stoned her to death before setting her body on fire within the school premises.
This was contained in a press release signed by the command’s public relations officer, ASP Sanusi Abubakar, and made available to newsmen in the state on Tuesday
He further explained that those arrested at the scene of the incident while dispersing the mob had been charged to court and the court remanded them in prison.
“The Sokoto State Command under the able leadership of the Commissioner of Police, CP Kamaldeen Okunlola, has declared the suspects spotted on the viral video wanted.
“The Command is using these medium to reiterate its commitment towards apprehending the suspects. The command has already deployed all its intelligence and on the lookout for the suspects .
“Members of the public are enjoined to cooperate with the police and report any mere identification to the command or any security outfit in their domain.”
“The command can be reached through its emergency number 07068848035,” he added.
Suspected Killers of Deborah Samuel Plead Not Guilty, Remanded in Prison Custody
Police on Monday arraigned two suspects, Bilyaminu Aliyu and Aminu Hukunci over the lynching of a 200-Level Home Economics student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto State, Deborah Samuel, on May 12.
The suspects, co-students of the deceased, were arraigned at a Sokoto Chief Magistrates’ Court for their alleged participation in the crime.
They pleaded not guilty to the crime.
Prosecuting Inspector Khalil Musa told the court that an investigation was in progress as Deborah’s corpse was still in a morgue at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto.
Leading a team of 34 lawyers, the defence counsel, Prof. Mansur Ibrahim, applied for their bail on liberal terms, citing constitutional provisions and sections of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law.
The trial judge (name withheld for security reasons) reserved the ruling on the bail application and ordered the accused to be remanded at a correctional centre.
Before she was lynched, Deborah was accused of blasphemy on a WhatsApp chat platform set up by her course mates and refused to retract her post after she was asked to pull it down.
A violent street protest followed the arrest of suspects linked to the lynching of Deborah as the protesters demanded their immediate release by security operatives.
Governor Aminu Tambuwal consequently imposed a 24-hour curfew on Sokoto metropolis on Saturday. He relaxed the curfew on Monday to be observed from dusk to dawn.