The digital rights and inclusion group, Paradigm Initiative has expressed concerns over the delay in transmitting the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill (HB490) to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent, urging the legislative and the executive arms to ensure the bill is signed before the 2019 elections. This is according to a statement signed by the organisation’s Communications Officer, Sodiq Alabi.
The landmark Bill was initially passed by the Senate in March 2018 after previously passed by the House of Representatives in December 2017.
After an eight-month delay, the National Assembly reworked Clause 4 of the Bill after a concern was raised by the Directorate of Legal Services of the National Assembly. The new version of the Bill was passed by the Senate last Tuesday, November 27.
While speaking on the issue, Digital Rights Program Manager for Paradigm Initiative, Adeboye Adegoke spoke about the delay experienced in transmitting the Bill to the President.
“Since the first passage of the Bill, we have been following up with the National Assembly on its onward transmission. We sent freedom of information requests which were not replied and have since been left to wonder why it is taking so long to transmit the Bill to the President for his assent.
“Now that the Senate has reworked and re-passed the Bill, we hope that the bill will be immediately transmitted to the President.”
Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative ‘Gbenga Sesan, however, provided some succour while speaking on the issue, “We are in constant communication with key stakeholders in the National Assembly and we have been assured that the Bill will soon be forwarded to President Buhari for assent”
“Given the President’s recent spate of refusal to assent to a number of Bills sent by the National Assembly, it is understood that the National Assembly is doing extra work to ensure that the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill is not refused assent for technical reasons.
“A member of the Senate was recently quoted as saying that President Buhari refused his assent to 15 Bills in a single day, and we do not want to see the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill suffer such fate,” says Sesan.
Speaking further on the Bill, Adeboye asserted that the Bill is poised to put Nigeria on the global map as a rights-respecting country. “This week, the Government of Germany, which currently chairs the Freedom Online Coalition, hosted the 7th Annual Freedom Online Conference, a multi-stakeholder event with governments, civil society, the private sector, and others – to share relevant information, develop joint strategies and combine efforts towards their mutual goal of a human rights-based Internet.
“We equally want to see Nigeria join in on these important questions and this can be done by ensuring the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill becomes law and reference legislation for other countries across the globe.”