Here is my analysis of the technology policy of the four leading candidates in the 2023 Nigerian election on February 25, 2023, based on their Manifestoes. I also analysed their statements and interviews across different channels outside their Manifestos.
On page 9 of the 115-page Manifesto of Atiku Abubakar, he states his commitment to driving education that empowers citizens to drive innovation and technology [education as means to an end, rather than as an end in itself]. He further states intentions to attract investments to the information and communication technology sector and the use of technology in security such as curbing oil theft, promoting efficient port operations, and policing; enhancing film production, as well as technology education for girls.
In terms of the legal regimes or frameworks in the technology sector, he proposed to review and harmonize as deemed necessary. For example, on page 27, he mentions merging the Trademarks, Patents and Designs Registry (TPDR) under the Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment, the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), and the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP)] into a single agency on issues that concern the Intellectual Property Rights of Nigerians. He also seeks to review the Trademarks Act of 1965 and the Patents and Designs Act of 1970, but no mention of the Copyright Act in this review [P.S: the proposed Amendment of the Copyright Act still awaits President Buhari’s assent].
Atiku further proposed the establishment of a Technology Support Programme (TSP) funded by a Diaspora Bond and producing a robust blockchain technology and cryptocurrency policy with main focus on opportunities and income for the government and the people of Nigeria. Of all the four leading candidates, he acknowledges Blockchain as a currency on page 27, but his plan seems to focus on income from blockchain technology and cryptocurrency.
In addition, of all four leading candidates, only Atiku referenced cyber crimes and cybersecurity in his Manifesto. On page 43, he states his commitment to using appropriate technology infrastructure that supports the end-to-end operations of government businesses for transparency and accountability. He hopes to empower key agencies of government, research institutions, and tertiary institutions to develop research capabilities and train in renewable energy, especially solar and wind; artificial intelligence (AI); and nanotechnology.
Atiku fully dedicates page 35 to addressing Technology Infrastructure, also stating to promote research in science and technology through the establishment of a National Research and Innovation Fund with funding windows to cater to employer-based training schemes, capacity support schemes for trainers, and technology development grants.
Nonetheless, In Atiku’s first mention of technology in page 5 of the 115-page Manifesto of Atiku Abubakar, he stated ‘as head of the Economic Management Team, I was instrumental in the design of a private sector revival strategy and advocated for the opening of the economy for private sector investments in the Information Technology (IT) sector’. Atiku’s claim about heading the Economic Management Team has been debunked as false since he neither headed nor was a member of the Economic Management Team, although it was during his tenure as a former Vice President that the Nigerian Communications Commission and the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency were established.
In the 80-page Manifesto of Bola Tinubu, he emphasised the use of technology to tackle insecurity, customs, irrigation, tax reforms, farming, railway surveillance, education and learning, pipeline vandalism, power station, infrastructure surveillance, and promote job creation. His Manifesto was the only one out of the four leading candidates that mentioned the development of technology hubs and parks, as well as accelerators and incentivising angel investors, to continue the development of a healthy technology ecosystem.
His Manifesto also mentions the intention to explore innovations such as blockchain technology for security, ease, job creation, and accountability. On blockchain, Tinubu’s Manifesto robustly extends its offerings towards driving policies for the prudent use of blockchain technology in finance and banking, identity management, revenue collection, and the use of crypto assets. It did not attempt to define what it means by prudent and mentions crypto as ‘asset not currency’. Does this mean lifting the ban on crypto and acknowledging it or leaving the ban as it stands? From further discussions on page 54, Tinubu seeks to maintain the current E-Naira arrangement with the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN].
In addition, he mentions increased scholarships for girls in technology education. It also seeks to review the legislative and enforcement framework for copyright and intellectual property protection in Nigeria, although no specifics as to what it means and how. Overall, the Manifesto seems to cite a lot of foreign examples to justify its goals, without robust concrete policy articulation on policy approach and specific vehicles for implementation. Tinubu’s Manifesto as regards technology is based on a myriad of big dreams and projections rather than policy to-dos or strategies for employing policy vehicles to do what. It also seeks to maintain the Buhari’s government approach to engaging technology.
In Peter Obi’s 72-page Manifesto of Peter Obi, he mentions the use of technology to fight terrorism, training the next generation of experts in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) field, and application of technology in the public policy sector. On page 33, he states his intention to leapfrog Nigeria into the fourth Industrial Revolution through science and technology in agriculture, transportation, education, clean energy incentives, and industry, to the combination of state-led and public-private initiatives to drive the penetration of broadband infrastructure and the information superhighway.
In addition to Obi’s Manifesto, as a former governor of Anambra state and vice-presidential candidate for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 Presidential elections, he was a vocal advocate for the use of technology to drive economic growth and social development. He was important in proposing the development of a national broadband plan during Goodluck Jonathan’s government and advocated for a national e-commerce strategy.
However, his Manifesto takes a simplistic look at the issues confronting the Nigerian technology sector, without a clear-cut policy articulation as to the approach to increasing internet access and digital inclusion, or leveraging innovation. His Manifesto has no single mention of Intellectual Property or review of the Intellectual Property structure which is ineffective at the moment in transforming Nigeria from consumption to production.
In Rabiu Kwankwaso’s Manifesto, he states his intention to invest in science and technology research and development, promote technology research, health, and development of indigenous technology. Of all the four, he speaks to localisation of technology. He also speaks to promoting technology that drives Nigeria’s industrial development, as well as special allowance to teachers of science and technology subjects, and the encouragement of skills and technology transfer.
However, Kwankwaso’s Manifesto barely scratches the surface as it lacks completely the robustness required to address the technology sector in Nigeria. Although, Rabiu Kwankwaso as a former governor of Kano state, was a vocal advocate for the use of technology to drive social development and established state-wide internet connectivity projects, his Manifesto lacks the required substance needed to tackle the issues confronting the sector.
In conclusion, all four leading Presidential candidates have a track record in technology policy, with each of them proposing policies to promote the growth of the digital economy. However, not a single one of the candidates addressed issues around data privacy and the need to review the current data privacy regimes. There are attempts to develop a robust regulatory framework for data protection and privacy in the Nigerian legal system, as there is a current Bill before the National Assembly in this regard, with little or no progress. In addition, the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill has not received Presidential assent since it was passed over 2 years ago. Addressing institutional and regulatory challenges like this and more is crucial for ensuring that technology is used in a way that is beneficial for society and for realizing the potential of technology to drive economic growth and social development in Nigeria.
Timi Olagunju Esq. is a Policy Consultant and Tech Lawyer with 12+ years experience in the tech policy, research, and regulatory sector. He is an Associate Partner, Timeless Law Practice; co-founder, Youths in Motion; a Lead Consultant, Speyside Group, and Policy Consultant/ED, Groundswell, a think-tank in Lagos, Nigeria. He tweets @timithelaw and can be connected on LinkedIn.