Spaces for Change | S4C, with support from the Ford Foundation’s Civic Space Resource Hub (CSR-Hub) Project, organized a consultative dialogue on Private Sector and Civic Space in Nigeria on July 7, 2023, in Lagos.
This event assembled an array of stakeholders comprising representatives from the National Communications Commission (NCC), National Identity Management Commission, National Human Rights Commission, telecommunication and FinTech companies, internet service providers, digital rights lawyers, journalists, cyber security experts, and civil society organizations—to deliberate on the challenges and opportunities for private companies to safeguard the civic space and digital rights of citizens while accomplishing their business and economic objectives.
Discussions at the dialogue were predicated on the findings of a recent research report, “Security Playbook of Digital Authoritarianism in Nigeria,” authored by S4C and members of the Action Group on Free Civic Space, which found evidence showing how huge budgetary allocations for combating insecurity and terrorism have been repurposed to limit the spaces for civic participation.
Among several findings, the report found that counterterrorism laws, profit maximization, and security rhetoric, are potentially becoming the dominant drivers of closing civic space in Nigeria. It identified the new technologies, regulations, laws, and tactics employed by state actors—with the tacit connivance of the private sector—to limit the constitutionally protected freedom of expression, assembly, association, and the right to privacy.
The report particularly highlighted the role of the private sector—especially telecommunication companies, internet service providers, and FinTechs—in facilitating restrictions that stifle civic freedoms and constrain civil society. Against this backdrop, the dialogue was convened to increase the role of the private sector, in partnership with civil society, in safeguarding the civic space in Nigeria.