The National Assembly, on February 5, transmitted the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent. The Bill, which had been in Parliament since 2016, was passed by both chambers of the Parliament in 2018.
Paradigm Initiative, a social enterprise that has led the advocacy campaign in support of the bill, commended the National Assembly and urged President Buhari to immediately sign the Bill into law. This is according to a statement signed by its Communications Officer, Sodiq Alabi.
According to ‘Gbenga Sesan, Paradigm Initiative Executive Director, “We are happy the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill has now been transmitted to President Buhari. Mr President now has a unique opportunity to position Nigeria as a leader in rights-respecting laws in Africa by signing the Bill into law.”
Yemi Adamolekun, the Executive Director of Enough Is Enough Nigeria, said, “It is significant that the gesture is happening on a day globally celebrated as the Safer Internet Day. There is now global attention on Nigeria to finish the important work it started by signing the Bill into law.”
The Africa Regional Coordinator of Web Foundation, Nnenna Nwakanma also added, “As the World Wide Web turns 30, Nigerians can not wait any longer for digital rights, freedoms and opportunities. The President’s Assent is urgently needed to secure fundamental rights, to support a stronger digital economy, and to build a more secure internet.”
The President will have 30 days from the day it receives the communication from the National Assembly to assent to the Bill.
Speaking on the development, Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights Program Manager, Boye Adegoke said, “To its credit, the Muhammadu Buhari administration has signed some landmark Bills such as the Not too young to run Bill and the Disability Bill.”
“If signed, the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill will add to what appears to be a forward-looking disposition of the Administration to policymaking. What President Muhammadu Buhari does with the Bill will go a long way to define the administration’s disposition towards technology and its viability in improving the economic base of Nigeria,” Adegoke said.
A digital rights advocate and lawyer, Tomiwa Ilori characterised the bill as a potpourri of protected freedoms in the digital age. “Nigeria will be at the cusp of history for being the first country to pass such comprehensive law with respect to securing human rights for the future. We have a golden opportunity of resetting digital policy across the board for human rights, we should take it,” Ilori said.
Commenting on the importance of the Bill, Angela Quintal, Africa program coordinator with the Committee to Protect Journalists said, ” this Bill shows that it is possible for African governments to write regulations and laws that work for, not against, journalists. President Muhammadu Buhari should prove his commitment to Nigerian leadership on digital rights in Africa by signing the bill into law before the election on February 16.”