A panel hosted by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) at Social Media Week in Lagos on the controversial 2015 Cyber Crime law saw pushback from the audience during the question and answer session. Tony Ajobo, the Director for Public Affairs at the NCC, read prepared remarks for the audience on behalf of the Executive Vice-Chairman of the NCC, Umar Danbatta.

The speech sought to address and inform members of the new media community in Nigeria of the Cyber Crime Act and provisions which carry legal consequences. Mr. Ajobi, while reading Mr. Danbatta’s prepared remarks, also spoke to the recent controversy involving the NCC attempting to regulate “over the top services” on new media platforms.

It will be recalled that SaharaReporters published a story on February 15th, 2016 describing an NCC report suggesting that it regulate over the top services because they pose a threat to traditional communications and telephone network operators.  The report noted that new media, like WhatsApp and Facebook, needs greater regulation by the NCC because of the danger of messages being intercepted by unknown persons.

An audience participant, Mr. Gbenga Sesan, told our correspondent at the conference that the presentation by Mr. Ajobo and the NCC did not satisfy his outstanding concerns over the Cyber Crime law for Nigerians.

According to Mr. Sesan, the law is “an example of the oppressor oppressing the oppressed.” He added that many Nigerians were frustrated because “no one has actually seen a gazetted version of the law” which underscores the lack of transparency.

Mr. Sesan also stated that Mr. Ajobo’s remarks that the new media community did not pay attention to the Cyber Crime law until it reached the presidency in 2015 “were completely untrue.” He added that social and new media rallied against provisions of the Cyber Crime law.

Digital advocates and audience members in attendance also 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.

Chris Kehinde Nwandu, who was jailed using provisions of the Cyber Crime law, is a popular online blogger jailed for posting a Facebook comment.

Mr. Nwandu told our correspondent that the government and elite “see bloggers [and journalists] as a threat” and that online publishing “is a problem for them.” He added that he believed it was targeted because he is one of the most prolific bloggers in the country. 

When asked by our correspondent why the public should trust the NCC to be ethical in its approaches toward regulation of new media, Mr. Ajobo pointed to the need to regulate the new media space. He also referred our correspondent to the Ministry of Justice when asked to confirm whether the Cyber Crime law is gazetted because he could not confirm that

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