Nigeria’s .ng domain manager says it has never been instructed to take down any website for criticising the government of the country.
In what is expected to boost uptake of the .ng, the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA) yesterday reduced the price of some extensions of the country-specific suffix that identifies the country on the internet.
“It is not a reality. It is not a correct perception because we’ve never received anything from the government for just criticising the government,” Mr. Muhammed Rudman, President of the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA) tells Technology Times while responding to concerns about alleged government control of the internet real estate of the nation.
The NiRA President says that those who believe that the .ng may come under clampdown may be referring to the Twitter incident in which the social media service was shut down in the country by the government.
“We’ve never had such an incident,” Rudman tells Technology Times, “and people are raising this because of what happened to Twitter, and I think everybody should know that Twitter is not under .ng, It is under .com. So as a government, if they decide to block any site, no matter what top-level domain the person is using whether .com, .org, .net, .ng, or whatever, they have the rights, and they can do it, you know.”
To people who have concerns over government clampdowns, the NiRA President says that “it is not a reality. It is not a correct perception.”
Rather, Rudman says, NiRA has taken action on behalf of right owners in “very few instances where we have websites that have been used for scam purposes, you know, to deceive and to cheat and to violate copyrights of other trademark owners. Those trademark owners and others reach out to us to work on those sites and not the government of Nigeria.”
NiRA President: Why We Reduced .ng Domain Name Pricing
NiRA, the multistakeholder body that manages the country-specific .ng identifier of Nigeria on the internet, is taking steps to encourage the internet community to adopt the country’s domain name, the latest being price reductions that came into force yesterday and are being reflected in prices charged by its Accredited Registrars across Nigeria and the world over.
The NiRA President, who says that the .ng domain price cut was the outcome of a survey conducted that reveals the price sensitivity of the Nigerian market, also says that the body is removing certain entry barriers to bring more registrars into the domain name trade.
As NiRA operates a 3R operations model (Registry/Registrar/Registrant) in the .ng registration, registrations of the Nigerian domain names can only be done through NIRA-certified Registrars because the body does not sell directly to registrants.
Rudman says that by removing previous categorizations of its Registrars, NiRA eliminated the entry barrier to simplify the process of onboarding new entrants. “So we hope to see more people as Registrars. So those will start running the business of domains by working with us to promote that.”
Rudman also commends the Federal Government’s recent directive banning government officials from using free web-based email services like Yahoo, Gmail, and others for official government business as “a very welcome development.”
Last month, Professor Isa Pantami, Communications and Digital Economy Minister, announced that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the National Policy on the Nigerian Government Second-Level Domains during its meeting on February 16, 2022, following a memo he presented to the Council.
Among other provisions, the Policy, according to the Minister, gives direction for the enforcement of the mandatory use of the Nigerian Government second-level domains by all Federal Public Institutions and recommends its adoption by States and Local Governments. “The scope covers the Nigerian Government second-level domain and email services on .gov.ng, .mil.ng, .edu.ng, .sch.ng, and any other Nigerian Government owned second-level domains that could be approved in the future.”
According to Pantami, the Policy “seeks to promote transparency in governance; protecting the Nigerian cyberspace, and promotion of the Digital Nigeria agenda. It also seeks to accelerate the adoption of the second-level domains (.gov.ng, .edu.ng, .mil.ng) under the country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD.ng) with the main objective to eliminate the use of top-level domains for Government business and the use of private emails for official correspondence by the end of year 2022.”
The Minister explains that “use of generic domains and private emails for Government businesses and correspondences impedes the identity, security and global recognition of the Nigerian Government on the Internet. Furthermore, the use of private emails for Government business is a major limitation to the capabilities to archive and back-up sensitive Government data thereby making it difficult to preserve historical correspondences and documents hosted on non-Government servers.”
Rudman: What Government Policy on .ng Domain Means for Nigeria
For the NiRA President, the Federal Government’s Policy thrust on the Nigerian domain name “is a very good initiative by the government because, you know, by ensuring that government Ministries, Department, and Agencies, especially at the Federal level, are using the email addresses under .gov.ng, ensures that at least to some extent the security of those email addresses because, as you know, governments tend to deal with sensitive matters and, therefore, it’s critical and important that almost everyone uses the platform that is provided by the government by using the .gov.ng.”
Rudman sees several layers of benefits to be derived from the current push by the government to secure government business, considering the Policy position that the “increasing rate of cyber-related incidences has inspired countries to develop Policy instruments to effectively regulate and manage their use of information and communication technologies in government institutions, specifically electronic correspondence within the government. Several countries have put policies in place to ensure that official correspondences are only conducted using approved domains and platforms in government institutions. ”
Another crucial area that Rudman links to digital security is data sovereignty, which he underscores as critical for Nigeria as a country. “You know, of course, it’s also part of security because if you use .gov.ng, and it’s hosted locally, it means no one can intercept it.”
The third factor to consider is the legitimacy of government communication. The use of the official .gov.ng, the NiRA President says, “gives legitimacy to government agencies as they communicate with individuals within and outside Nigeria by using the official email addresses, because a lot of scams, as you know, 419, are taking place.
“People are saying, ‘I received this message from the government.’ You can do that. So if anybody uses .gov.ng, because of the way we are currently vetting the process of getting a gov.ng domain, it ensures that it is legitimate. So it gives them that legitimacy for communication.”
Rudman says another welcome development of the Federal Government’s Policy direction is its potential to have a multiplier effect on the local hosting business ecosystem in Nigeria. “And another layer” according to him, “is that the government is pushing for the hosting of those emails locally as well, apart from just everyone using them, which is also a very good development, that provides opportunities for all the hosting companies in Nigeria.”
But more importantly, the policy direction towards the use of official emails for government communications means that official communication, documents, and institutional memory are retained within the various institutions of the Nigerian public service, according to the NiRA President.
“You see, government agencies, when they use these email addresses for communication, it gives them an opportunity for archive, for continuity, and for institutional memory. As you know, one person leaves the government, another person comes in, and if you have historical communication, it makes the transition easier. But when people use their private emails, the new person is not privy to the earlier communication,” Rudman says.
NiRA is also complementing the Federal Government’s push in several areas, including the price cuts that kicked off on March 1, and the body hopes that there will be spiral effects across the Nigerian economy.
Though the .gov.ng is more for government agencies and not for businesses, Rudman says that “but if the government is using it, it just means more businesses will adopt it, and on our own side, as NiRA, we are trying too, because the purchasing power of Nigeria now, to some extent, is dropping because of inflation.”
For NiRA, Rudman tells Technology Times, the Federal Government’s push is “a welcome development because the government is leading the way now in using our own country’s top-level domain, by ensuring that everybody is using .gov.ng and by doing that, others, of course, the citizens, will follow if they see the advantages, and the government is leading that. I think it’s important that NiRA aligns with what the government is doing, and we totally support it. And we will look for other ways to push for the adoption of the .ng as well.”