On the 22nd of September, 2016, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria hosted stakeholders to a roundtable on issues surrounding the passage of the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill (HB. 490). There were several participants at the roundtable which also had robust issues discussed. This became necessary as part of PIN’s commitment to ensuring that the Nigerian ICT sector grows into one that is properly utilized while doing so within the boundaries of human rights.
Following spirited advocacy efforts by the coalition of partners and the unwavering support from the sponsor of the Bill, Hon Chukwuemeka Ujam, the Bill has passed second reading at the House of Representatives. As its core objectives, the Bill seeks to guarantee that the rights that apply offline also apply in the digital space to promote freedom of expression online, freedom of assembly and association online, guarantee the fundamental right to privacy of citizens, define the legal framework regarding surveillance and seek protection of the data of every Nigerian citizen. This Bill will not only assist in the legal framework for every Nigerians’ digital future plans; it will also be a tool for education of the masses, law enforcement officers/agencies and as well as the judiciary. A free digital environment in Nigeria will ensure active participation of citizens towards socio-economic development.
According to Adeboye Adegoke, Program Manager (ICT Policy), Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, “the need for such a bill of rights has become increasingly imperative considering the current global debate on Internet Governance and Internet polices in light of actions by state and non-state parties that threaten the Rights and freedom of internet users in Nigeria. A case in point is the incessant arrests of bloggers in Nigeria and lack of regulatory frameworks guarding the untamed biometric data mining in Nigeria. As at the last count, not less than eight (8) bloggers have either been arrested or detained in the last one year on the instruction of a political office holder or some powerful individuals. Also, at least eight government agencies have collected citizens’ data in Nigeria without a data protection law or exclusive policy in place.” he said.
Also, the Program Assistant (ICT Policy), Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, Tomiwa Ilori also stated that “the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill (HB. 490) seeks to protect Internet users in Nigeria from unauthorized infringement on their fundamental freedoms and to guarantee enjoyment of human rights for users of digital platform and media while safeguarding their proprietary rights. It is the most comprehensive Bill till date that factors into consideration major developments in technological policies and also includes affirmative and definitive measures that puts the fundamental freedoms and economic interests of every Nigerian, first.”
The provisions of the Bill covers issues such as right to Digital Privacy Online and other innovative provisions like Data and Information Privacy and Data stored in the Cloud. Other major sections of the Bill focuses on e-Governance and Digital Economy while the Bill further reiterate Fundamental freedoms we enjoy offline to online.
In recognizing the key stakeholders that have vouched their support for the Bill, Adeboye Adegoke expressed that “we wish to recognize the 8th National Assembly for their spirited dedication to ensuring that the human rights concerns of every Nigerian are not only protected but also making sure that they lend their support for the Bill as the first of its kind which gets to project this Assembly for global view. Also, a special congratulation goes to the sponsor of the Bill for being named a “Hero” of Human Rights on his dedication to this Bill by the organizers of the Necessary and Proportionate Principles Awards.
We then use this medium to welcome the members of the National Assembly back form recess and urge them to expedite action towards the speedy passage of the Bill by calling for its public hearing in earnest.”