Home Others TECH PARADIGM INITIATIVE REACTS TO BUHARI’S REFUSAL TO ASSENT DIGITAL RIGHTS BILL

PARADIGM INITIATIVE REACTS TO BUHARI’S REFUSAL TO ASSENT DIGITAL RIGHTS BILL

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By: Ife Adewole

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The Pan-African digital rights advocacy organization, Paradigm Initiative, has expressed dissatisfaction over the refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to assent the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, saying “the refusal of the President to sign the Bill is a huge setback for human rights online in Nigeria.”

It would be recalled that the Bill was transmitted to the President on February 5, 2019, by the National Assembly.

In a letter read on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, the president stated his decision to decline his assent to the bill, saying the Bill “covers too many technical subjects and fails to address any of them extensively.”

The group has determined not to relent till the Bill will be passed into law.

Commenting on the development, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, Gbenga Sesan said, “work will continue on the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill in Nigeria, and in other countries where Paradigm Initiative is now working with partners on the adoption of similar positive rights legislation.”

“We would like to make it clear that the efforts of our coalition on the Bill are not a lost cause. Although the President’s refusal to assent the bill is a setback, we are currently liaising with our partners towards a strategy to take this work forward. At stake is the state of human rights online in Nigeria, which is too important to abandon, and which we have dedicated ourselves to protect,” Sesan added.

The group also accepted the President’s readiness to sign a bill focused on “the protection of human rights within the digital environment,” and promised to work with the national assembly and other stakeholders to make this a reality.

While reacting to the development, Paradigm Initiative’s Program Manager, Boye Adegoke said, “We also acknowledge the role that certain stakeholders played including the role of a government agency that premised their opposition to the Bill on the fact that some of Bill’s provisions are currently the subjects of various National Assembly Bills. We consider it strange that assent was denied to a Bill on the ground that its provision could conflict with proposed laws that have not been passed by the national assembly. ”

The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill makes provision for the protection of human rights online and has been praised by experts for its forward-looking provisions on human rights and its potential to help protect users of digital tools.

The Digital Rights and Freedom bill 2018, President Buhari stated that it “covers too many technical subjects and fails to address any of them extensively.”

He listed the areas to include surveillance and digital protection, lawful interception of communication, digital protection and retention etc. “which are currently the subject of various bills pending at national assembly. We therefore suggest that the scope of the bill should be limited to the protection of human right within the digital environment to reduce the challenge of duplication and legislative conflict in the future.”

Senate Leader Ahmed Lawan moved that plenary be adjourned to April 2 to enable committees meet with the various agencies of government on the 2019 Budget defence.

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