Volume, language complexity are reasons Nigerians don’t comprehend constitution- Experts
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PARTICIPANTS at the just concluded New Media, Citizens and Governance (NMCG) conference held in Abuja said volume and language complexity are key reasons many Nigerians have never gone through the 1999 Constitution to understand its contents.
Conversations on digital security, fake news and the integrity of elections in Africa dominated the conference, held between October 24 and 25.
The conference, hosted by Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE), Paradigm Initiative and BudgIT, offered participants and speakers from seven African countries a platform to deliberate on the theme, “Government, New Media, and Civic Spaces.”
Adeolu Adekola, EiE’s Program Manager said part of the recommendations from the NMCG2016 conference was the need to bridge the knowledge gap of most Nigerian citizens about the 1999 Constitution.
He said, “Fundamentally, rights and responsibilities of citizens are contained in the constitution but unfortunately, most people have never gone through the constitution to understand its content due to its volume and language complexity.”
Adekola revealed that “Constitution 101 [a summary of the 1999 constitution] was thus conceptualized to improve citizens’ access to essential parts of the constitution.
“After the first two phases, identification of the most essential sections of the constitution which is the third phase is ongoing and a 1st draft (for feedback and reviews) was launched after the Closing Civic spaces and Constitution 101 – What Every Citizen Should Know session at NMCG2018,” Adekola added.
Speaking at a session titled ‘Digital Security-Is Social Media Really Friendly,’ Facebook’s Public Affairs Manager for Africa, Akua Gyekye, said that the global technology firm was working hard to keep their platform safe and free of hate speech and fake news.
She urged users to take their digital security seriously while using any digital tools, and assured the audience that Facebook remains dedicated to safeguarding the data submitted to them by the users.
Ronald Kakembo, a digital security expert, urged users to consider digital security as digital safety.
“You need to protect your digital assets, your accounts, your passwords, the same way you secure your home. This is more of a process than tools, and you have to be deliberate about your security.”
When asked about the role of social media influencers and public relations agency in the 2019 general elections, the co-founder of Red Media, Adebola Williams, said it was the duty of every voter to do their research and vote for the candidates of their choice.
Williams added that it was important that voters hold their elected officials accountable instead of focusing on fellow citizens who campaigned for the officials.
The executive director of Penplusbytes, Kwami Ahiabenu, hailed the role social media has played in the elections in Africa, saying the medium enabled citizens to demand integrity of the 2016 elections in Ghana.
Ahiabenu added that it was important that citizens resist any attempt to ban social media during elections as Ghanaians did when the government broached the idea of banning social media during the 2016 elections in the country.
Commenting on the importance of social media, Farida Nobourema, a Togolese activist, lauded the medium as an important tool of mobilisation, education and a platform for resistance against government dominance.
Nobourema, said, “In Togo, where all institutions have been politicised, including the Supreme Court, and the social media remains an effective platform for citizens to fight back”
While speaking at the conference, the Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Garba Abari, commented on the vote-buying practice currently sweeping Nigeria, condemning it as “a big threat to our society and the quality of governance we get.”
He called on citizens to be actively engaged in the governance process.
Speakers at the conference include Hamzat Lawal, Olumide Babalola, Chioma Agwuegbo, Laila Johnson-Salami, Chris Ihidero and Megan Chapman. Others are Chizobam Ofoegbu, Oluwatoyin Bayegun (Woli Arole), Sani Michael (MC Lively) and Gabriel Okeowo.
NMCG, a biennial event last held in 2016 was supported by Facebook, MacArthur Foundation and Luminate & Palladium (through its ECP-PERL program). The conference will next hold on October 20 and 21, 2020.