About #NMCG

Nigeria’s civic space is evolving with the application of new technologies and methods to strengthen advocacy and foster active citizenship. The rise of new media has also impacted on new organisations that are reaching out to citizens to demand accountability from the government with results. These organisations such as EIE Nigeria, BudgIT, Paradigm Initiative have effectively used digital media to drive social impact, creating societal change across different contexts.

 

Leveraging on its early success as a movement that transformed into an organisation, EiE Nigeria, partnered with Shehu Musa Yar’adua to host the maiden event of the New Media and Governance Conference in 2012 which focused on new tools and trends. BudgIT, Paradigm Initiative, Co-Creation Hub and several budding civic-tech organisations made presentations at the event, sparking conversations and partnerships.

 

In 2016, EiE Nigeria resuscitated the event finding new partners in BudgIT and Paradigm Initiative with a particular focus on ‘citizen’ as the bridge between the new media tools and governance outcomes. The conference was held in the context of a new government led by President Muhammadu Buhari, who profited immensely from the use of new media to rebrand his authoritarian image. The conference is now a bi-annual pan-African conference.

 

The 2016 Conference – #NMCG2016: Rights and Responsibilities

The 2016 conference highlighted the rights and responsibilities of all stakeholders – citizens, civil society groups and the government in using new media in a mutually beneficial way.

 

The keynote address was delivered by Mrs Oby Ezekwesili titled Office of the Citizen and New Media. The two-day event had 41 speakers/panellists (from Nigeria, Tanzania and Kenya) speaking in 13 different sessions; 195 physical attendees and a social media reach of 3.4 million.

 

Key recommendations were made to the government and its agencies, citizens and civil society organizations. A 45-paged report was distributed online and offline with a formal presentation to announce the 2018 conference.

 

The 2018 Conference – #NMCG2018: Government, New Media and Civic Spaces

 

The 2018 conference was held four months to the 2019 elections in Nigeria. The conference provided a vibrant platform to discuss the role of new media as a tool for civic engagement, advocacy, sex education and tracking government projects. There was also a robust discussion on how to optimally utilize new media in the wave of fake news and hate speech. Emphasis was laid on the “Office of the Citizen” as a medium for citizens to demand improved service delivery, public accountability, and good governance.

 

The keynote address was delivered by Dr Chidi Odinkalu, Senior Managing Legal Officer, Open Society Justice Initiative. The conference had 46 speakers/panellists from 7 countries (Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo and Uganda), 8-panel sessions, 142 physical attendees, and a social media reach of over 3.5 million with live participants in 7 countries.

 

Recommendations were made to stakeholders (government and its agencies, civil society organizations, and citizens). A 40-page report is available here

 

Major Outcomes of Previous Conferences

  • EiE commenced the Constitution 101 project after the 2016 conference. During the conference, it was decided that the Nigerian 1999 Constitution should be transcribed from its legalese terms to layman’s English for easy comprehension. The first edition of Constitution 101 was published and  launched at the 2018 conference.
  • EiE also leveraged on celebrities to drive advocacy after the 2018 conference. EiE supported Nigerian rapper, Jude Abaga (MI) to organize a roundtable discussion with other celebrities with the aim to advocate for good governance and promote civic engagement.
  • BudgIT also developed an election monitoring mobile application for the 2019 general elections.

 The 2020 Conference

In a connected world, everybody is at risk. The COVID-19 pandemic emerged in China in December 2019 before spreading across the world. The pandemic caught the world unawares and governments seem not to be prepared for such. Our reality is changing, and we are left to embrace the ‘new normal’. The pandemic has led to the emergence of a new culture of engagement in all spheres of life including civic and political matters.

 

The conduct and management of elections, citizen’s engagements with government officials, protests among others can no longer be carried out using the previous model; new methods have to be developed based on the current realities. Malawi, Guinea, Cameroon and Benin Republic conducted elections despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria and other countries have upcoming elections. It is also no longer business as usual for companies as some staff are working remotely and governments also are encouraged to incorporate videoconferencing and teleconferencing for their meetings and when it is important to have physical meetings, physical distancing should be observed to curtail the spread of the virus.

 

Despite the pandemic being a public health issue that has claimed over five hundred thousand lives across the globe, there are other salient issues that are spin-offs from the pandemic. One of these includes the recent gag on freedom of speech and expression by governments across the world. Some countries are using the COVID-19 pandemic to tighten their media regulations and silence citizens. In the Niger Republic, Kaka Touda Mamane Goni, a journalist who published a story on Twitter and Facebook was arrested for releasing information about a COVID-19 patient. In Kenya, Elijah Muthui Kitonyo was also arrested for spreading misinformation on Twitter. The Iranian government set-up a Coronavirus Defence Base that prompted the arrest of individuals supposedly spreading misinformation while simultaneously hiding information about the spread of COVID-19 in the country. In Zimbabwe, governments said they have put legal instruments in place to punish those who cause unnecessary alarm on social and traditional media. Kyrgyzstan and Iraq have disrupted the rights of citizens to protest against them using COVID-19 as a façade. Recently in Nigeria, some protesters in Katsina State were arrested for protesting against the incessant violent killings in the state. The rising cases of sexual and gender-based violence across Africa have also become a ‘shadow’ pandemic. Kenya and Nigeria are among the countries reporting a 30-50% average increase in sexual and gender-based violence during the lockdown. The Nigerian police recorded 717 rape cases between January and May 2020. In South Africa, there was a 500% increase in SGBV during the lockdown.

 

#NMCG2020 will provide a platform for analysts, policymakers, and citizens to discuss these issues from various perspectives with the purpose of proffering solutions and strategizing pathways to mitigate some of the challenges posed by the ‘new normal’.