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Monday, November 06, 2017

Tension: FG shutdown on online newspapers, others looms

Babagana Monguno, NSA to President Buhari
The Federal Government (FG) may have commenced secret clamp down on some online newspapers, blogs and websites perceived to constitute “threat to national security” permanently shut away from Nigerian cyber space, reports ITRealms.

This is coming as there is apprehension with social media and Internet users in Nigeria as they may not be exempted from the squelching exercise suspected to have commenced since October 27, 2017.

According to a report by Sunday Tribune, the closest clue in this kind of indirect attempt to gag the press and suppress opposing views since the advent of the current administration is the controversial bill to regulate social media, which has passed second reading in the Senate.

Also Sunday Tribune reports that the government, through the Nigerian Communications Commission, has soliced the services of a Lagos-based Information and Communication Technology (ICT) firm to block the domain names of “several identified websites threatening national security” mostly those sympathetic to pro-Igbo and Biafra concerns.

ITRealms gathered that the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) had drawn the list of the alleged offensive and threatening websites and domains numbering about 21, based on the memo written by NCC, a copy of which was leaked to ITRealms.

Dated October 20, 2017, the reminder memo to the firm, entitled: “Re: Request to Prevent the Commission of an Offence under Section 146 of the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003” was signed by duo from NCC including its Head, Legal and Regulatory Services, Yetunde Akinloye, while an official of the agency co-signed for the Director, New Media and Information Security, Engineer Haru Alhassan.

The letter referenced earlier letter dated September 27, 2017 on the above subject matter, directing the contracted firm “to restrict access to several identified websites threatening national security as identified by the office of the National Security Adviser.”

Further, it read in part the firm “… is hereby required to immediately take steps to restrict access within the Nigerian cyberspace in respect of 21 (twenty one) additional websites by blocking the domain names. (The list of websites is attached)”.

Section 146 (1) of the NCC Act 2003 states: “A licensee shall use his best endeavour to prevent the network facilities that he owns or provides or the network service, applications service or content application service that he provides from being used in, or in relation to, the commission of any offence under any law in operation in Nigeria.

“(2): A licensee shall, upon written request by the Commission or any other authority, assist the Commission or other authority as far as reasonably necessary in preventing the commission or attempted commission of an offence under any written law in operation in Nigeria or otherwise in enforcing the laws of Nigeria, including the protection of the public revenue and preservation of national security.

“(3): Any licensee, shall not be liable in any criminal proceedings of any nature for any damage (including punitive damages), loss, cost or expenditure suffered or to be suffered (whether directly or indirectly) for any act or omission done in good faith in the performance of the duty imposed under subsections (1) and (2).”

Reacting, the Ministerof Communications, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu, said he was not aware any memo originated from the NCC instructing any firm to gag the press, particularly online newspapers, Internet and social media users or shut them down.

Shittu told Sunday Tribune that no instruction would be given to the NCC without such passing through him as the Minister supervising the NCC.

“I am sure NCC will never ever write such a memo. I am sure it never happened. President Muhammadu Buhari or any of the people working for him will never do or encourage anything that will amount to gagging of the press,” he declared.

*Ayo Midele with additional report from Sunday Tribune/GEE


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