Elections: Embrace transparency, digital rights, group tells FG

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The Digital Rights and Information Partnership (DRIP), a consortium of organisations, has called on the federal government to embrace electoral transparency and respect Nigerians’ digital rights.

Speaking against the backdrop of the 2023 presidential and National Assembly elections, the group said Nigerians deserved protection against unlawful shutdowns and interferences allegedly witnessed during the presidential elections.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja, Friday, on behalf of the group, Mr. Edozie Chukwuma, said Nigerians should be given an enabling environment to vote with the assurance that their votes will count.

He said: “Nigeria recently conducted the most contested election in two decades. Despite electoral campaigns, voter education, and civic discussions on why the elections should be both credible and transparent, the election fell short of the international transparency standards due to the Independent National Electoral Commission’s inability to effectively and efficiently leverage digital technology.

“Leveraging the Digital media and the internet has its unique challenges due to our dynamic political landscape which was evident in the just concluded elections. The commission invested heavily in technology (such as the BVAS and IREV systems) to ensure transparency and direct transmission of electoral results from polling units.

“Nigerians should be given an enabling environment to vote with the assurance that their votes will count and fear of the use of suppressive force that hinders civic participation. The use of the internet, social media, and mass media can be advantageous in holding governments and agencies accountable in seeking redress for violence and misconduct against human and digital rights.”

Chukwuma, however, called on the government to safeguard the civic space by curtailing unlawful shutdowns and guaranteeing freedom of expression and assembly online for all Nigerians.

He said: “It is the civic responsibility of electoral agencies and the government to ensure that the digital rights of Nigerians are not infringed upon during the gubernatorial elections. We call for the protection of digital rights and online freedom as it is of democratic importance to ensure accountability and good governance from our government at all levels,” he said.

On the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill (DRFB) before the National Assembly, he said the bill, among others, seeks to prohibit undue interference with the digital privacy of any Nigerian citizen; and protects the rights to peaceful assembly and association online of all Nigerians through social networks and platforms.