By Yetunde Verissimo, The Sight News
The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, which seeks to protect the rights of internet users in Nigeria from infringement of their fundamental freedoms and to guarantee application of human rights for users of digital platforms has passed the first reading at the National Assembly.
In February this year, President Buhari declined assent to the Bill after it was passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate at the 8th National Assembly.
Meanwhile, Paradigm Initiative, the organization leading the advocacy for the passage of the Bill had been engaging stakeholders on the way forward for the Bill after Buhari declined assent.
According to Boye Adegoke, Program Manager at Paradigm Initiative, “On April 18, 2019, we hosted a stakeholder roundtable in Abuja to review the reasons President Buhari declined assent to the Bill. The roundtable gave a unique opportunity for us to get robust stakeholder feedback and buy-in into the objective of the Bill from stakeholders. We have on the basis of that, revised the Bill and we are glad for the immediate attention it has received from the National Assembly”.
“It is my utmost pleasure to sponsor this Bill given its relevance in the digital age. The Internet is opening up new possibilities for Nigeria’s teeming young population. As a legislator, I hold the firm belief that we must encourage young people by assuring them of their protection when doing legitimate activities on digital platforms “ says Honorable Tahir Mohammed Monguno who is the sponsor of the Bill and the Chief Whip of the House of Representatives.
On the chances that President Buhari will sign the Bill when passed by the National Assembly, “Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative says “We are hopeful that the President will sign the Bill. The President was clear when he declined assent to the Bill in the 8th NASS that he will be happy to sign the Bill if his concerns were addressed”. Those concerns have now been addressed and the Bill has started another legislative journey. We hope that the President will keep his word”.
“Our team worked with the Ministry of Justice, the Nigeria Communications Commission and other stakeholders and partners in producing the current version of the Bill, so the quality of stakeholders’ input also gives us confidence that the journey of the Bill in the 9th assembly will be smoother” Sesan concluded.
The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, 2019 (HB. 98) was read on the floor of the House on July 16, 2019 for first reading. The Bill must be passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate before it is sent to the President for assent.