Feb 1, 2017

DRONE IN A TOY SHOP: The Battle Between Technology Development & National Security In Nigeria

While window shopping in the mall one day, I saw something unusual through the window of one of the stalls. It was something I had always thought it would be cool to have, if only I knew what to do with it. It was a drone. A DRONE? A DRONE in a toy store??? I know you must think I’m old and archaic but really what is a drone doing in a toy store.

The possibility of drones being available for sale to the general public is one that makes me fearful for a number of reasons. There is no doubt that the introduction of this technology brings much potential for growth in many different areas. It may contribute to making security surveillance systems cheaper and safer, therefore improving our ability to safeguard infrastructure (such as oil pipelines) and the general public from evil doers such as the killer herdsmen and the dreaded boko haram sect. Other applications may include use by hospitals to deliver emergency first aid equipment, speedy delivery of pizza to my house, and even more awesome innovations from those in the music and entertainment industries. However, the introduction of drones also poses several risks in the wrong hands, especially in the context of the complex and volatile nature of Nigeria these days.

Therefore my major question is: how can the use of drones be regulated such that innovation and progress is encouraged in a systematically controlled environment.

I was elated to see that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has proactively taken steps to provide safety guidelines for the operation of drones, particularly in a non-segregated airspace, for certification, safety and security reasons. The word proactive is used due to the fact that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is yet to publish Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs), as far as certification and operation of civil use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) is concerned. [1]the NCCA has put in place very stringent procedures for the acquisition of licences to operate a drone in Nigeria, which includes the following:

1. Writing a letter to the Director General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) stating your proposed use of your (RPA),

2.  The payment of a non-refundable processing fee of N500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) bank draft payable to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.

3.    It is also expected that your business is incorporated with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) with a minimum capital shares of N20,000,000. [2]

4.   Due diligence by the Nigerian Security Agency (NSA) and part in compliance with NCAA is carried out on the applicant.

And finally an annual renewal of licence fee of NGN100, 000.00.[3]

As laudable as this step may seem, it poses more as a deterrent to potential drone users due to the high cost and unpredictable outcome of the application process. The application process is geared mainly to those who are able to raise revenue, whether legally or on the side (i.e., illegally). This is also evident from the little detail of a non-refundable half a million-naira processing fees. (note that the total certification process costs more than the average cost of a drone). The certification process by the NCAA has therefore grounded the use of drones to a near total halt.

Furthermore, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARs 2015 Part and Implementing Standards (Nig.CARs 2015 Part IS. stipulates the guidelines for the use of drones in Nigeria which covers how, when and where to use drones.[4] This is funny because the guidelines will now guide no one, or at best very very very few privileged people and institutions who know people in high places that can guarantee license approval (the story of Nigeria).

In the spirit of technological progress however, what is most important is the ability to strike a balance between the good and the bad potentials of drone use. The complex balance between the encouragement of use to increase economic and innovative growth is crucial. For example, going beyond regulating the use of drones, it would be nice to see the NCCA co-operating with the Nigerian Customs and immigration services in order to control the importation or smuggling of drones such that importation is not discouraged but controlled and properly tracked.

The certification process should also be attached to the purchase and use of drones whereby prospective buyers must show evidence of certification before being able to import or buy drones off the rack of equally certified retailers, just like buying a gun (considering the fact that drones are also potentially weapons). Also the NCCA may encourage the building of drones (knowing how innovative Nigerians can be) for the encouragement of technological development, as well as having a less stringent and more cost effective certification/licensing process to encourage legitimate users, importers and builders to register activities. Finally, a wider spread law to enforcing and punishing the violation of any and all guidelines and laws.[5]
As the world continues to evolve, Nigeria should not continue to be seen as a country who constantly lags behind technology-wise. 

A little progress has been seen in recent years  throught the introduction of electronic commerce into the Nigerian evidence act 2011. But it would be nice to see more progress in this direction by creating and amending laws to be more accepting of technological development. I do understand however that there is a need for complete synergy between the law and enforcement agencies for this dream Nigeria to be realised. Drones pose even higher dangers where so many dysfunctional agencies and laws are in existence. While deterring the use of drones in the country may not be the most technology oriented move to make, it is the safest for now pending when we become a more mature and technology forward and functional nation. Therefore, I’m more than happy to wait for the time to buy my own drone and fly to see what I look like from an aerial view, than get stalked or worse by a random unknown and dangerous person. I am happy to be patient.

[3]Anti-Drone Regulations: NCAA Will Send Nigeria To The Stone Age; Samuel Odusami; viewed 27th September 2016
[5] Drones and their interaction with security and privacy; sokombaa alolade

Abimbola A. Laoye-Balogun

Managing Partner 
H.B Balogun & Co.

Ed's Note - This article was published here.

Photo Credit - www.pacificlegal.org