As Nigeria protests, the government must uphold connectivity

As civil unrest flares across Nigeria, it is imperative that President Muhammadu Buhari ensures stable, open access to the internet and digital communication channels throughout the nation. Thousands of people are taking to the streets, demanding the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) face justice for their alleged brutality — amidst a wider call for government reform — and now, as Nigeria protests, upholding the safety of protesters should be the government’s main priority. 

“Shutting down the internet while thousands of Nigerians are protesting against police brutality would be incredibly dangerous, and we call on President Muhammadu Buhari to help ensure sparks don’t turn into flames,” said Felicia Anthonio, Campaigner and #KeepItOn Lead at Access Now. “Governments cannot allow their agents to operate with impunity. Stable, open, and secure internet helps ensure people can document, communicate, access information, and hold elected officials and law enforcement to account.”

“The internet is helping protesters coordinate, while bringing global attention to the issues on the ground,” said Adeboye Adegoke, Senior Program Manager at Paradigm Initiative. “We have witnessed people attacked by sponsored thugs, and the killings of unarmed protesters at the Lekki tollgate, allegedly by the Nigerian Army — all through images and video clips shared in real-time via social media. This evidence can be used to investigate and prosecute crimes against peaceful protesters and the Nigerian State, while helping the government demonstrate its commitment to the reforms it promised. Keeping the internet on at this crucial time is the only way for the government to show transparency and sincerity of purpose as it fights to win back citizens’ confidence.”

As Nigeria protests, the government must protect human rights. Access Now, Paradigm Initiative, Internet Sans Frontiéres, and 50 other organizations are appealing to the government to:

  • Ensure that the internet, including social media and other digital communication platforms, remains open, accessible, and secure across the Federal Republic of Nigeria;
  • Publicly assure the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that the internet and all social media platforms will be on, and to notify the public of any disruptions; 
  • Order the ISPs operating in the country to provide quality, secure, free, and open internet and inform internet users of any disruptions and work around the clock to fix any identified disruptions likely to impact the quality of service they receive; and
  • Ensure the security of protesters and that they will not be surveilled and profiled for retribution. 

Read the open letter.