Category archives for: Technology

East Africa:Why All CIOs Are Heading to Naivasha

By Humphrey Odhiambo

Have you registered yet? Well, another moment for East African companies to celebrate excellence and learn from CIOs – the corporate risk busters is here.

For the second year running, Enashapai Resort in Naivasha shall host the eagerly awaited 2017 CIOs Symposium and Awards slated for 9th – 10th November.

“We’ve keenly observed that CIO’s executive role has become fundamental in business strategy. Digital leaders are now taking the steps to become strategic business partners as more CIOs are invited to give executive guidance at corporate board levels.” Ms. Laura Chite, chief executive of CIO East Africa

The many corporate honorees at the 7th CIO 100 Awards program using IT innovation to reduce risks that threaten employees, customers and entire business models are expected to participate at this annually docketed symposium.

“We’ve keenly observed that CIO’s executive role has become fundamental in business strategy,” said Ms. Laura Chite, chief executive of CIO East Africa adding: “Digital leaders are now taking the steps to become strategic business partners as more CIOs are invited to give executive guidance at corporate board levels.”

l be celebrated during a gala awards dinner and ceremony at the CIO 100 Symposium woven with sessions comprising presentations, executive round-table workshops and panel discussions on the changing regulatory landscape, latest Fintech, big data analytics, enterprise applications and cyber-security among others.

East Africa

South Sudan to Revive Crude Oil Operations

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East Africa:Cisco Networking Academy Celebrates 20 Years in East Africa

More than 1 million students in Africa have directly benefited from Cisco Networking Academy (NetAcad), with over 115,000 students benefiting in the past year.

The Cisco Networking Academy is celebrating 20 years of up-skill young people across 51 countries in Africa this year, resulting in more employment of skilled youth into technical jobs. Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia are some of the countries in the region where the NetAcad, which is Cisco’s flagship CSR programme, has made the most impact.

Stephen Ondieki says the Cisco CCNA course he took and completed at Raila Educational Centre instilled in him the confidence to successfully run his own computer center. “My certification through Cisco Networking Academy has allowed me to spend my time positively. I have gained entrepreneurship skills and also been able to travel to other countries as an IT ambassador. I urge youth living in neighborhoods such as mine to challenge themselves,” he said.

Cisco Networking Academy has over the past 20 years consistently sought to fill the gaping ICT skills gap in East Africa, a region that has gained global acclaim as the ICT innovation hub of the continent. The 2017 growth outlook for IT and telecommunication in Kenya remains positive given continued interest in housing and infrastructure development as well as mobile telecommunications.

The Cisco programme has been buoyed by the need to ensure that youth in market can handle the growing ICT sector. It has been rolled out through non-profit schools, colleges, universities and other non-profit educational institutions.

Commenting on this successful rollout, David Bunei, General Manager for Cisco East Africa and Indian Ocean Islands said: “As we celebrate 20 years of the existence innovative ICT teaching and leading information study materials including reasonable web support free of charge to educational institutions that join the Cisco Networking Academy program.”

“As we celebrate 20 years of the existence innovative ICT teaching and leading information study materials including reasonable web support free of charge to educational institutions that join the Cisco Networking Academy program.” David Bunei, General Manager for Cisco East Africa and Indian Ocean Islands

Diane Mahoro a beneficiary of the programme from Rwanda currently studying Information Systems at Akilah Institute for Women has done the IT Essentials and CCNA courses which are part of the school curriculum.

To her the skills learnt in the Cisco Networking Academy courses will change her abilities in networking. As part of her internship at KLab in Kigali, she was able to assist people connect to the internet or toand fix their network access.

I can’t keep quiet if I know there’s Wi-Fi but people’s computers are not connected. Recently a lady asked me to assist her because she couldn’t get the network to work. I had to download some drivers, store it and connect it to the internet. Now it’s working again. That’s because of what I learned from Cisco’s networking course,” she says.

The internet-based learning and educational opportunities have positively transformed communities in Africa by helping the workforce to develop the necessary skills for employment, to use the internet leading to connectivity and as such allowing participants of the program better their lives and that of their families.

The Cisco Networking Academy has in the last 10 years trained 15,760 students in 35 public universities in Ethiopia, 25% of which were female. This year, the Ministry of Education of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Cisco to work together on expanding the Cisco Networking Academy program into the education system in Ethiopia.

Cisco continues to encourage more female students to participate in technology-based professions. Since 2005 women represented 29 percent of the Cisco CCNA graduates in participating countries, the goal was to get 30 percent, which has been met according to recent 2017 graduation numbers.

been recognized through an international award from International Trade Union (ITU) for its support towards upskilling the continent in the technology sector.

East Africa:iLab Africa Partners With Cio East Africa to Cio 100 Symposium and Awards

By Humphrey Odhiambo

In a bid to determine the overall top contenders in the 2017 CIO 100 Awards, the annual CIO Symposium & Survey organizers has engaged iLab Africa.

Dennis Wambugu, a Business Intelligence Analyst at iLab notes that the adjudication team has been marveled with the high level of submissions forwarded by the respondents.

“We noticed that, emerging technology isn’t merely a conjured-up report but they represent a series of already rolled-out initiatives – in pure capital, time and energy – that have massive implications for the enterprise. Dennis Wambugu.Business Intelligence Analyst at iLab

“We noticed that, emerging technology isn’t merely a conjured-up report but they represent a series of already rolled-out initiatives – in pure capital, time and energy – that have massive implications for the enterprise,” said Wambugu.

Whether the discussion revolves around robotics or virtual reality, or what that would be analyzed as “augmented humanity,” the CIOs have proven that they have an obligation to keep their eyes on the technological horizon.

“Of importance is that the CIOs must be judicious when assessing the emerging technology landscape, advocating for the smart decisions aimed to secure the future of organizations,” said Dr. Joseph Sevilla, Director iLab Africa.

ing the essence of the timely partnership, Ms. Laura Chite chief executive of CIO East Africa said: “We’ve keenly observed that CIO’s executive role has increasingly become fundamental in business strategy,” adding that following that understanding, the end-year CIOs Symposium agenda has been fashioned to add value to the corporate c-suite decision – making level industry players.

East Africa

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Mauritius:Citizen Support Portal Launched in Rodrigues

press release

The Rodrigues Citizen Support Portal, a modern and practical online platform with a view to providing a better service to address complaints and queries of Rodriguan citizens, was launched by the Minister Mentor, Minister of Defence and Minister of Rodrigues, Sir Anerood Jugnauth, on 13 October 2017 at the Anse Aux Anglais Youth Centre in Rodrigues.

The online platform was launched in the context of the celebrations marking the 15th anniversary of the autonomy of Rodrigues. The portal which will be managed by the Rodrigues Regional Assembly (RRA) is a joint initiative of the Prime Minister’s Office in collaboration with Mauritius Telecom.

In his address, Sir Anerood Jugnauth, recalled the prerequisite of putting in place such a platform which is called upon to become a one-stop department in citizen support, covering assistance in handling complaints, queries and guidance to the citizens.

He further highlighted that the initiative of extending the Citizen Support Platform to Rodrigues is part of Government’s ongoing efforts to broaden the democratic space and do even more for the Rodriguans enabling them to contribute to the modernisation of the country as Rodrigues is as an integral part of Mauritius.

According to Minister Mentor, the new Portal specifically designed for Rodrigues, accentuates the country’s autonomy by offering a platform for the Rodriguan population to communicate directly with the Rodrigues Regional Assembly and eventually shape up regional policies. He also called upon the citizens to make use of this online platform which has been put at their avail for the betterment of the country.

For his part, the Chief Commissioner of the Rodrigues Regional Assembly, Mr Louis Serge Clair, recalled that in his last budget speech, he expressed the interest of setting up a Complaints Desk at the Rodrigues Regional Assembly to assist Rodriguan citizens to improve their living conditions. Thus, he welcomed the launch of the Citizen Support Portal in Rodrigues which according to him has come at an opportune time to help improve the quality of life of the Rodriguans.

The Chief Commissioner, appealed for a concerted effort between the public officers and the different stakeholders to collaborate and make of this platform a success while deriving the appropriate solutions to their queries and shape up a modern Rodrigues for the future generations.

The Rodrigues Citizen Support Portal which is a digital platform will embark Rodrigues in the Vision 2030 strategy for a digitalised economy and provide a 24-hour facility that can be accessed on computer, laptop or mobile phones for more convenience to Rodriguans and also offer a better service delivery to the Rodriguans by the RRA.

The platform will also promote an even greener island by encouraging a “paperless” interaction of the citizen with the authorities and a greater transparency and trust between the citizens and the Government and is accessible 7 days a week enabling citizens to monitor the progress of their application.

Moreover, it will allow the RRA to review political decisions based on suggestions and complaints recorded on the portal and harmonise and streamline the procedures of the different Commissions.

Mauritius

Workshop to Promote Gender Concepts in the Mauritius Police Force

Some 100 officers from various departments and units of the Mauritius Police Force participated in a workshop on the… Read more »

East Africa:Digital Transformation Is Here for the Financial Services Industry

There’s little doubt that digital disruption continues to define the shape, form and structure of the financial services industry. New technology and behavioral shifts that seemed unimaginable even a few years ago are transforming the industry on a day-to-day basis.

Recently, EY held a session with banks, insurance companies and regulators in the financial services industry, on the various digital disruptions impacting the industry and the urgency of staying ahead of the digital curve.

Robert Nyamu, East Africa Financial Services and Risk Leader at EY, said: “Discussions on growth, profitability and market perception are intertwined with conversations around how to get products to market faster, how to engage with customers and understand their needs, how to protect the integrity of sensitive data and how to process routine transactions faster and more accurately, among others,”

“The common theme underlying all these conversations is digital transformation. A firm’s agility to anticipate and adapt to digital disruption is becoming a key differentiator in determining which players will thrive in the digital age,” added Mr Nyamu.

One of the key disruptions the delegates discussed was the emergence of FinTech – innovative business models and technology that enable, enhance and disrupt financial services.

In Kenya, we have witnessed the growth of FinTech and its role in facilitating payment solutions. Banks and insurance companies are forming partnerships to leverage the platforms of mobile money service providers to that ensure their products are available to a wider market.

We have also recently seen the emergence of technology companies, which offer financial services, largely targeting the un-banked population. One such example is a company based in San Francisco and Nairobi, which uses its mobile platform to provide micro-loans to its members. Such companies, tend to be more nimble, flexible and customer centric and rely extensively on data analytics in designing the customer journey and making lending decisions.

Blockchain technology

Blockchain technology was also highlighted as a key disruptor in the financial services industry. A blockchain is a distributed database that hosts a continuously growing number of records, the database stores records in blocks rather than collating them in a single file.

Each block is subsequently ‘chained’ to the next block, in linear, chronological order, using a cryptographic signature; as a result, records cannot be revised and any attempted changes are visible to all participants.

This technology is the foundation for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and it can be deployed on a wider scale in financial services to ensure the integrity of data.

While the adoption of blockchain technology is still in its infancy globally, several major banks and insurance companies have formed alliances with blockchain-based start-ups to research the application of this technology within their businesses.

Robotic Process Automation

Robotic Process Automation (RPA), is another digital game changer that involves the deployment of software solutions, which can rapidly automate repetitive manual back-office and customer-facing processes. This has resulted in increased operational efficiency, which significantly reduce costs and increase consistency in the execution of routine tasks.

“Rather than representing a threat to the workforce, our experience at EY suggests that RPA could be a complementary workforce, working hand-in-hand with people, which helps improve process efficiency and focuses their time on other, higher priority tasks,” says Nyamu.

With the evolving technological landscape, global connectivity and numerous customer touch-points, financial services firms are under increased pressure to secure their networks from attacks. Cyber-attacks have increased in recent years, posing a risk not only to individual firms, but the financial services industry as an ecosystem.

Regulators have become increasingly cognisant of this fact and this was evident when the Central Bank of Kenya issued a guidance note in August 2017 requiring banks to put in place measures to mitigate against cyber-security risks. This includes, among other provisions, a requirement for banks to have a cyber-security strategy, policy and framework approved by the Board of Directors.

Disruption trends include customer intelligence, data analytics and cloud technology. The key message put forth by EY subject matter specialists during the event, which also included a launch of leading digital solutions in the local market, was that firms need to articulate a clear digital strategy and allocate the right amount of resources to survive and thrive in the digital era. Furthermore, regulators should remain abreast of these shifting dynamics in order to ensure the soundness and safety of the entire financial services ecosystem.

Africa:Bonanza As Africa Prepares to Abolish Call Roaming Charges

By Christabel Ligami

Calling and sending text messages across African borders are set to become cheaper following a decision by regional integration blocs to abolish roaming charges.

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC) are working on mechanisms that will see up to 40 African countries harmonise roaming charges across the board.

This was revealed at the 10th meeting of the Ministers of the 19 Comesa countries in Lusaka.

“Although the pricing of voice services in many African countries was becoming competitive and comparable with the rest of the world, the cost of broadband continued to be out of reach for most people,” said the ministers’ report.

The Association of Regulators of Information and Communications for Eastern and Southern Africa was asked to conduct studies on reducing the roaming charges across Comesa countries so that a decision can be taken at the next meeting.

At the same time, the Ecowas resolved to abolish mobile phone roaming fees from the beginning of 2018. The decision was reached at a meeting of ministers in charge of ICT from the regional bloc in the Cape Verdean capital, Praia.

The 15th meeting of the Ecowas ministers approved the revised Draft Supplementary Act on Universal Access and Services, along with several other documents designed to boost the development of ICT and regional integration.

Single digital market

Africa has one of the highest roaming fees in the world. For instance, a Nigerian on roaming in Europe pays five times less than they would while on roaming within the Ecowas.

The ministers said the Praia Resolution was part of the bloc’s efforts to establish a single digital market.

Zambia, Bostwana, and Zimbabwe — have also agreed on a pilot project to lower roaming charges. All the mobile operators in the member states have commenced the necessary arrangements to implement their agreed roaming agreements.

The industry telecommunication regulator said the wholesale and retail tariffs will be reduced annually in line with a glide path approved by ICT ministers from southern Africa.

Already Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda have harmonised their calling charges under the One Network Area (ONA). Calls within this network have already been slashed by 12 US cents per minute while there are no charges for incoming calls since implementation of the ONA in 2015.

Burundi and Tanzania are yet to join the ONA but the two are working on a mechanism to harmonise the roaming rates.

Safaricom and Airtel reduced their voice roaming charges by 60 per cent, leading to increased communication across the region.

And so has Ethiopia, even though it is not a member of the EAC.

South Sudan is already part of ONA, making all charges for calls between the countries equivalent to local calls. This has led to a minimum 400 per cent increase in volume of calls — a direct benefit to EAC citizens and African businesses operating across the region’s borders.

Previously, making calls across the EAC was more expensive than calling any other continent.

Roaming charges are an important source of revenue for telecoms companies.

Manage roaming charges

The ONA is a regional framework comprising countries that have agreed to waive or manage roaming charges and other surcharges on telecommunications traffic.

When executed, the One Africa Network will see calling rates reduce dramatically across the continent. One can only imagine the multiple opportunities this portends for growth, inclusion and development.

Experts say a growth of over five per cent, coupled with the availability of cheap phones and increased integration of services via mobile phones including money transfer and Internet usage will see a marked increase in traffic.

Communications Authority of Kenya data indicates that Kenyans now make more calls within East Africa following the scrapping of taxes on incoming voice calls by the Rwandan and Ugandan governments.

Across Comesa, studies have shown that Malawians spend more than $12 (£7.70) a month on mobile phones, the minister noted.

“This is more than half of what the ordinary Malawian earns in a month which is very expensive,” the Ministers noted.

There was general concern over the high mobile termination and roaming charges. They noted that although mobile phones had provided new sources of originating international traffic, it was also more expensive to terminate traffic on mobile networks.

The ministers noted that there is general concern regarding high mobile termination and roaming charges. There seem to be no transparency in coming up with roaming charges which are seemingly high.

Terminate traffic on mobile networks

Although mobile phones had provided new sources of originating international traffic, it is also frequently more expensive to terminate traffic on mobile networks

They urged Comesa members to emulate other groupings in Africa and beyond in offering reduced roaming and termination charges.

They cited the case of the EAC, which has eliminated roaming and termination charges and the European Union where mobile operators no longer charge additional fees on customers for using their phones within the EU.

“The ICT regulators are encouraged to carry out studies on interconnection rates and reduce or eliminate the roaming charges,” said the Ministers.

“Member states are encouraged to invest in the Fibre Technology to The Home to increase capacity and provide excellent quality.”

The ministers observed that despite substantial investments in network infrastructure in the recent years, Africa lacked a robust network connectivity and high-quality, affordable Internet access.

Comesa countries represent over 37 per cent of Internet users in Africa, while Africa represents seven per cent of the world’s Internet users, meaning that Comesa constitutes 2.5 per cent of the world’s population of the Internet users.

In their decision, which is binding on all the Comesa countries, the Ministers called for regulations to encourage investment among the Virtual Mobile Network Operators (MVNOs) to enhance competition and increase access.

Nigeria:Google Celebrates 272nd Birthday of Nigerian Slave, Equiano

Photo: Google

Olauda Equiano

Google yesterday celebrated the birthday of Nigerian former slave, Olauda Equiano, who supported the British movement to end the slave trade. The Nigerian author was born in 1745 and was enslaved as a child. After his freedom, he tried to end the slave trade in British colonies, supporting the British Movement to abolish the practice.

The latest Google’s Doodle celebrated one of the most prominent Black anti-slavery activist, the first Black political leader and lobbyist in 18th century Britain. A Google Doodle is a special, temporary alteration of the logo on Google’s homepage that is intended to celebrate holidays, events, achievements and people.

Equiano was a prominent Nigerian writer, activist and a trader who died on 31 march 1979. He gave the world one of its first accounts of the slave trade from a victim’s perspective. Equiano formed an anti-slave movement in 1780s that shed light on the tragic life of slaves. His autobiography, published in 1789, helped in the creation of the Slave Trade Act 1807, which ended the African trade for Britain and its colonies. His famous autobiography gave detailed insights and first-hand account of the slave trade era where Africans were densely packed onto ships and transported across the Atlantic to the West Indies.

According to Equiano, slave traders abducted him and his sister at the age of 11 and shipped them to Barbados with 244 other captives before they were moved to Virginia (at that point still a British colony). In Virginia, Equiano was sold to Michael Pascal, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, who renamed him ‘Gustavus Vassa’ after the 16th-century Swedish king. He was renamed twice, he was called Michael while onboard the slave ship that brought him to America; and Jacob, by his first owner.

Equiano became a free man in 1767. Like many free Black men, he moved to Britain to work as a sailor in the Royal Navy and on commercial vessels. His travels took him all over the world, including to the Arctic in an attempt to reach the North Pole as a member of the Phipps expedition of 1773. He eventually settled in London, where he’d been baptized earlier in his life at St Margaret’s Westminster, in 1759.

With first-hand experience as a slave, he became friends with and supported many people involved in the abolitionist movement, the movement to end the slave trade. Some of his abolitionist friends encouraged him to tell his life story, and thus the idea of his autobiography was formed.

Nigeria

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Nigeria:Special Report – How a Nigerian Law Is Suppressing Citizens’ Freedom On the Internet

Photo: The Nation

Social media.

By Samuel Ogundipe

When Emenike Iroegbu set up his news platform three years ago, he saw it as a starting point in the future of quality community newspapering for an audience long deprived of alternative views and balanced reportage.

Mr. Iroegbu, 39, works full-time as the editor of Abia Facts Newspaper, a small-scale platform with a primary focus on Abia State. Although he’s based in Uyo, the capital of neighbouring Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Iroegbu spends his typical workday working the telephone and trawling through the Internet for the most recent happenings in Abia.

Abia Facts’ political reporting is well read amongst middle-aged men and senior citizens; while its entertainment section is popular amongst women, who have long been identified as avid consumers of lurid content.

“I launched Abia Facts as a platform where all factual sides of what is happening in the state would be presented,” Mr. Iroegbu told PREMIUM TIMES in a recent interview. “I felt it was time for someone to start beaming light on the state’s activities, away from the cover-up by state media houses that residents were used to.”

Abia State, whose population hovers around three million, was amongst the 12 states created in 1991, but its media space is still largely dominated by pro-government voices, Mr. Iroegbu said.

This left a void for Mr. Iroegbu to tap into. A few weeks after Abia Facts commenced operation, it broke the news that former Governor Theodore Orji had “anointed” incumbent Okezie Ikpeazu, then a senior aide to the governor, as his successor.

The platform was also the first to report that a former banking executive, Alex Otti, had concluded plans to run as the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, even as he was openly averring allegiance to the Peoples Democratic Party.

The two reports, and many others afterwards, turned out accurate, and, for several months, it “looked like the paper’s fortunes were turning up much earlier than we had expected,” Mr. Iroegbu said.

NOT SO FAST

But two years on, something happened that imperilled Mr. Iroegbu’s streak. The event was so pivotal that Mr. Iroegbu not only scaled back his ferocious reporting, he considered closing his news business for a new career.

On September 6, 2016, operatives of the State Security Service swooped on Mr. Iroegbu at his residence in Uyo, taking him away on allegations of criminal defamation and blackmail. He was subsequently driven to the SSS field office in Umuahia, the Abia State capital, where he was interrogated about a story he had published on his platform which detailed alleged diabolical and sharp practices by Mr. Ikpeazu.

Emenike Iroegbu

Mr. Iroegbu said he learnt at the SSS detention facility in Umuahia that his activities contravened the Cybercrime Act, its Section 24 specifically.

He said he was devastated, but not so much as he was confused.

“It was during interrogation that I first learnt of the repressive nature of the Cybercrime Act,” Mr. Iroegbu recounted to PREMIUM TIMES.

The SSS did not respond to requests for comments, but the Ikpeazu administration said Mr. Iroegbu deserved time behind bars because his claims against the state were reckless and untrue.

Mr. Iroegbu was freed the following day without charges. He said this is because there was no evidence that established his wrongdoing.

“It was like using a double-barrelled gun to kill a mosquito,” Mr. Iroegbu said of his predicament. “It was disproportionate and unnecessary.”

The SSS operatives broke into Mr. Iroegbu’s apartment with his wife and children present.

“Some neighbours even thought I was an armed robber or a kidnapper,” the journalist said. “It was too traumatic for my family to bear.”

A WORRISOME STRING FOLLOWS BIRTH OF CONTROVERSIAL LAW

At a glance, Mr. Iroegbu’s ordeal might seem improbable if not unwarranted: how could someone be arrested in such a disruptive manner over a matter whose nature is so glaringly civil?

Yet, experiences like Mr. Iroegbu’s are becoming increasingly common as jurisdictions across the country have embraced expansive powers of the Cybercrime Act as a tool for curbing potentially critical speech of citizens on the Internet.

Citizens have been held over infractions arising from a Facebook update or WhatsApp group comments.

The Cybercrime (Prohibition & Prevention) Act 2015 provides a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework ‘for the prohibition, prevention, detection, prosecution and punishment of cybercrimes’ in Nigeria.

President Goodluck Jonathan signed the law in the waning days of government to promote cybersecurity as well as protect critical national information infrastructure, computer systems and networks, electronic communications, data and computer programs, intellectual property and privacy rights.

Nigerian Senate

Security experts have long warned of the perils of an unregulated or monitored cyberspace in the country.

Several attacks were reportedly targeted at hundreds of government websites and servers between 2008 and 2014. During the 2012 protest against the removal of government subsidy on petroleum products, some hackers launched a cyber-rampage against the Nigerian government, defacing several websites and shutting off even more with denial-of-service attacks.

Federal authorities have praised the law for helping them stay ahead of some would-be criminals, especially those plotting nefarious acts over the Internet or via the telephone.

But critics say law enforcement agencies have also used the Cybercrime Act to clamp down on citizens, even when they didn’t necessarily engage in acts that could be considered inimical to the national interest.

‘CYBERSTALKING’

One problematic aspect of the Cybercrime Act that has been deployed by authorities is the Section 24, which proscribed ‘cyberstalking.’

The section prescribes up to three years imprisonment or a fine of N7 million or both for anyone found guilty of “causing annoyance, inconvenience danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another.”

That section is part of the law’s sweeping attempt to curtail freedom of expression of citizens online, making it difficult to issue criticism, cost or organise mass action against government policies, critics say.

Since May 15, 2015, when Mr. Jonathan signed the law, PREMIUM TIMES identified no fewer than 15 cases in which Nigerians have been detained for alleged violation of the Cybercrime Act.

Although a few of the cases are currently pending in the courts, no conviction has been recorded under the Cybercrime Act. Arrests have been made in Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Kaduna, Ogun, Kogi, Abia and the Federal Capital Territory.

Those cases likely represent only a fraction of arrests linked to Cybercrime Act, because few of such matters ever make it to court or become public knowledge.

They nonetheless offer a strong suggestion of the law’s sweeping implications. A PREMIUM TIMES review showed that the police carried out most of the arrests, with SSS carrying out two, one of which involved Mr. Iroegbu.

The other case was the arrest of James Emeh, who runs IgbereTV, on October 14, 2016. The SSS accused him of publishing pro-Biafra materials on his website, with alleged ties to the Indigenous People Of Biafra, which has now been outlawed.

He was released the next day without charges, after being questioned on the basis of violating the Cybercrime Act.

The police were responsible for the arrest of Audu Maikori, CEO of Chocolate City Entertainment, in March. He was charged under the Cybercrime Act for allegedly inciting the public through false information.

Audu Maikori [Photo credit: www.trendysturvsblog.com]

Mr. Maikori had propagated a bogus claim that Fulani herdsmen killed some Southern Kaduna students as part of a bloody violence that had simmered there for years.

After learning that the claim was false, Mr. Maikori admitted wrongdoing and apologised, but the matter continues at the Federal High Court after Governor Nasir El-Rufai vowed to ensure a thorough prosecution of the music label executive.

In at least one incident, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has arrested a citizen using the Cybercrime Act. The anti-graft agency cited ‘cyberstalking’ for detaining Abubakar Usman in the morning of August 8, 2016. Mr. Usman, a pro-government blogger, was released the next day without charges, after posting stringent bail conditions, his lawyer said.

Some officers who had participated in arrests bordering on cyberstalking said only a few officers have a good grasp of the intricacies of the Cybercrime Act.

In many cases, police prosecutors would see a criminal wrongdoing where a civil redress would suffice, the officers said.

“We don’t know anything about this new law and we have not been trained on how to make a proper use of it,” said a police superintendent who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak about shortcomings in the force. “That’s why we have so many arrests but no one has been convicted.”

Officers’ struggle with the Cybercrime Act was evident in the retroactive application of the law against Desmond Ike-Chima. Mr. Ike-Chima, an entertainment blogger, was arrested in October 2015. The police arrested him for “publishing malicious claims” against Phillips Oduoza, the MD of UBA, and arraigned him before the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court on November 2, 2015.

Court filings said Mr. Ike-Chima allegedly detailed an amorous affair Mr. Oduoza had with actress Genevieve Nnaji in a March 2015 article published on his blog.

But a cursory check at the timeline of events showed that the piece was first published in August 2014, about nine months before the Cybercrime Act was enacted.

Mr. Ike-Chima was freed on April 15, 2016 after spending more than six months at Ikoyi and Kirikiri correctional facilities, both in Lagos. But details of his release remained spotty and Mr. Ike-Chima said a non-disclosure agreement was entered into as part of conditions for his release.

He also declined PREMIUM TIMES’ request seeking clarification on whether his lawyers argued against potential retroactive implementation of the Cybercrime Act in his case.

To the security agencies, the arrests are one prong of a broader crackdown on voices critical of politicians in high places, said Martin Obono, executive director of Cybercrime and Fraud Awareness Foundation, a public-policy think tank.

Martins Obono

“Section 24 criminalises civil offences,” Mr. Obono told PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday. “This is clearly wrong.”

Mr. Obono said his organisation made inputs that helped shape some aspects of the Cybercrime Act, but that lawmakers managed to “smuggle in” some controversial sections to shield themselves, and partly because they were in a haste.

“The current law was not what we laboured for, but because politicians were in a hurry to regulate activities of Nigerians online in order to shield themselves, they came up with a controversial law,” Mr. Obono said.

He argued that lawmakers added Section 24 because they knew the law enforcement agencies could be easily manipulated.

But police spokesperson, Jimoh Moshood, denied that police were being used or ill-equipped to implement the law.

“We were never instigated to arrest anyone under the Cybercrime Act,” Mr. Moshood told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone. “We’ve conducted ourselves in a manner that can be deemed ethical and professional.”

Mr. Moshood could not explain why the police have not been able to record a conviction despite, saying officers’ responsibility ends at taking a case to court for trial.

“It is the duty of judges and magistrates to hand down convictions,” the spokesperson said. “And no one has to instigate us to do our job.”

But that’s not how Mr. Iroegbu and others who have been detained within the last year see the police’s conduct with respect to the Cybercrime Act.

Almost all the arrests made in connection with the law involved either the government or powerful individuals.

The arrest and arraignment of Emmanuel Ojo in Ogun State on September 27, 2015, for example, was in connection to a Facebook post which Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s wife, Olufunso, considered defamatory. The case was later dropped following an apology by Mr. Ojo, who had initially countersued for a fundamental rights enforcement.

Similarly, on August 4, a Chief Magistrate’s Court in Umuahia remanded Daniel Kalu, a 29-year-old blogger, in custody for allegedly contravening Section 24 in a Facebook post.

Court documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES show that Mr. Kalu is being tried for posting “rumours” about the Deputy Governor of Abia State, Ude Oko-Chukwu.

Mr. Kalu allegedly committed the offence in a December 11, 2016, update on his Facebook wall. He’d alleged that Mr. Oko-Chukwu had made little impact on the lives of those in his constituency in Abia State, despite having spent several years occupying different public offices.

Based on the pattern of arrest, “the police have clearly shown that they’re working for powerful authorities individuals,” Mr. Obono said.

But lawmakers say the Cybercrime Act is not to blame for the crackdown.

Mojeed Alabi, vice chairman of House Committee on Human Rights, said the law is necessary to check abuse of cyberspace by Nigerians.

“The essence of the law is to engender good behaviour on the Internet,” Mr. Alabi, APC-Osun State, said. “We have had to deal with several cases in which people put false information on the Internet for the purpose of blackmail or revenge.”

The lawmaker said abuse by authorities is “a Nigerian problem” and not necessarily a manifestation of flaws in the law.

“The Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, so anyone who is illegally detained can get a lawyer to secure their freedom from the courts,” Mr. Akande said. “But we will not allow blackmail to stand.”

While most of the recorded cases, especially those involving public institutions, border on free speech, PREMIUM TIMES learnt of at least one case in which a suspect admitted wrongdoing and apologised.

The matter involved Seun Oloketuyi, publisher of entertainment blog Naija Hottest Gist, and Nnamdi Okonkwo, the CEO of Fidelity Bank.

Mr. Oloketuyi was arrested on August 25, 2015, over a publication that suggested an extra-marital affair which Mr. Okonkwo allegedly had with a female staff of the bank.

Mr. Oloketuyi regained freedom after Mr. Okonkwo withdrew the case from the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court on June 29, 2016. Days preceding the withdrawal, Mr. Oloketuyi had published a retraction and apology to Mr. Okonkwo in two national dailies, including THISDAY.

Mr. Oloketuyi declined to speak on the matter with PREMIUM TIMES, citing a non-disclosure agreement which his lawyers entered on his behalf with Mr. Okonkwo.

Media analysts widely hold that Mr. Oloketuyi’s arrest was the first publicly-known case under the Cybercrime Act.

Yet, rights advocates hold that extremely rare cases of wrongdoing should not be enough ground for authorities to continue implementing the Cybercrime Act on such a broad scale.

“Even if someone is guilty of libel or defamation, even if intentional, there are existing laws that that could be activated,” said Adeboye Adegoke, programme manager at Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, a public policy think-tank.

Mr. Adegoke said the pattern of cases and the manner with which they were discarded show that “the aim was not to get justice but to intimidate and suppress.”

“By its nature, cyberstalking is strictly a matter for the civil courts,” Mr. Adegoke said. “But what we have is people in privileged positions simply telling the security agencies to go after those with whom they disagree.”

Mr. Iroegbu’s ordeal appears to have shaped his subsequent reporting methods.

“I now spend most of my day fine-tuning any story I know could be critical to the government,” Mr. Iroegbu said. “In some cases, I just drop a story altogether for fear of backlash.”

Hours after Mr. Iroegbu’s story about alleged diabolical practices of Mr. Ikpeazu was published on Abia Facts’ website, the page crashed under a deluge of hits. But no story had come close to being as popular as that ever since because he has “toned down so much” that his audience has “started shrinking,” he said.

Mr. Adegoke said even though the Cybercrime Act was enacted using a democratic mechanism, it has been serving a purpose that has not been witnessed in Nigeria since the Protection Against False Accusations Decree.

Also known as Decree 4, the law was promulgated by the military junta led by Muhammadu Buhari in 1984. Several journalists were detained under the law, with many receiving long sentences for their stories.

But while the statutes under the military regimes only forbade works that were critical of the government or public officials, the Cybercrime Act was designed to protect all Nigerians, status notwithstanding.

“We can’t be using military tactics to enforce civil laws in a constitutional democracy,” Mr. Adegoke said.

‘STILL AN IMPERFECT LAW’ — INITIATOR

For Gbenga Kaka, a former senator who sponsored the Cybercrime Bill in 2014, the law was designed to be tested.

“Like every other law, the Cybercrime Act is not perfect and its subject to judicial rigour that will test its conformity with the Constitution,” Mr. Kaka, who represented Ogun East Senatorial District from 2011 to 2015, told PREMIUM TIMES Thursday.

“For the most part, the law addressed a lot of problems in the country, including the protection for every Nigerian from gruesome invasion of privacy, but that is not to say that we can’t amend controversial aspects of it that are prone to abuse,” he added.

EXPLORING A FAIRER LEGISLATION

Spurred by the alarming rates of arrests associated with the Cybercrime Act, the Netrights Coalition, a body of civil liberties advocates led by Paradigm Initiative, has approached the Federal High Court to challenge key sections of the law, especially its Sections 24 and 38.

Section 38 is equally frightening because it empowers security agencies to gain access to citizens’ private data with little checks for excesses, said Gbenga Sesan, a capacity development expert and executive director of Paradigm Initiative.

The coalition is also pushing a Digital Rights and Freedom Bill to address key shortcomings of the Cybercrime Act, urging the Nigerian parliament to expedite passage. The bill is expected to be debated by lawmakers this week.

Amongst the things Paradigm Initiative and its partners hope to achieve at the court is the confirmation of the legal status of Cybercrime Act. They hold that the law has not been gazetted and, as such, should not be used to prosecute citizens.

“We’ve made several efforts to verify if the law was gazetted, but no luck,” Mr. Adegoke said.

A gazette is the publication of a newly-signed law. While some lawyers hold that gazetting a new legislation is required as the final process in lawmaking; others see presidential assent as the final stage and a gazette merely to notify the public, which is why a lack of prior knowledge of a law cannot be admissible as defence.

2019 FEARS

Even though the courts have continued to decline sentencing anyone to jail for ‘cyberstalking,’ there are still fears that security agencies might deploy it against dissenting and critical voices as 2019 election nears.

Some bloggers say they would welcome a regulatory body that will supervise their activities if the government could guarantee fairness.

President Muhammadu Buhari during the Campaign prior to the 2015 Presidential election

“We know getting the government to create another bureaucracy won’t be hard, but how do we ensure accountability from such body?” Mr. Iroegbu queried.

Nigeria:Firm Challenges Order to Transfer $10.5m to Unknown Third Party

By Joseph Onyekwere

A firm in the telecommunications sector, INT Towers Limited, has frowned at what it called a strange order by a magistrate court, ordering it to transfer $10.5million to the account of a company it does not know or have any dealings with.

Magistrate, Mr. W. B. Balogun, sitting in Igbosere had in his ruling ordered the firm to pay the sum to a company known as Emirates Fuel Exploration and Production Limited, while ruling on application filed by Lagos Commissioner of Police and Managing Director of Emirates Fuel, Akin Jegede.

The police claimed that the money was obtained from Jegede by fraudulent means.

But the firm said it was not a party to the suit, nor does it have any business dealings with Emirates Fuel Exploration and Production and therefore will appeal the decision.

The applicant said failure of the Commissioner of Police and Jegede to join it to the suit breached its right to fair hearing.

It said the police did not also provide any evidence about how it received the money from Jegede and his company.

Besides, INT Towers said the police commissioner and Jegede lacked the locus standi (legal right) to apply to the court to transfer its funds to a third party without affording the applicant the opportunity to be heard, notwithstanding that it would be adversely affected by the order.

The applicant said the amount is in excess of the court’s monetary jurisdiction prescribed under the Magistrate’s Court Law, therefore, the court lacked the jurisdiction to make the order.

INT Towers has, at the meantime, applied for a stay of execution of the order.

It is also praying for an order granting it leave to appeal against the ruling.

The court had on September 19 granted INT Towers’ prayer to be joined as a party, but refused its application to set the order aside.

It is, therefore, seeking the leave of the court to appeal against the decision refusing to set aside the order.

The case will come up on Thursday October 19.

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Ghana:Tigo and Airtel Complete Ghana Transaction

Millicom International Cellular S.A. (“Millicom”), the parent company of mobile operator Tigo Ghana Limited, last Friday announced the completion of the transaction announced earlier this year with Bharti Airtel Limited (“Airtel”), the parent company of Airtel Ghana, to combine their operations in Ghana.

The successful closing will see both companies hold equal ownership and governance rights in the combined entity.

The Airtel-Tigo merged entity in Ghana will be the second largest mobile network operator in the country.

It is envisaged that the combined business will offer improved coverage and better quality of service to customers in both urban and rural Ghana, enabling wider access to communication solutions for businesses and mobile financial services to the Ghanaian customers.

Through an efficient delivery of superior customer experience, high speed data, innovative product mix and wider network coverage the new combined business will challenge the market leader, improve the competitive dynamics of the telecoms sector and in the long-term, strengthen the mobile ecosystem.

Meanwhile, shareholders have appointed Roshi Motman of Tigo as CEO for the merged entity. – BDG

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