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Buhari declines assent to Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, four others

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Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari declined to assent to the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill and four other bills forwarded by the National Assembly.

On Wednesday, Senate President Bukola Saraki read five letters from President Buhari to members of the Senate on his decision to decline assent to Nigerian Film Commission bill, Immigration Amendment bill, Climate Change bill, Chartered Institute of Pension Practitioners bill and the Digital Rights and Freedom bill.

In his letters, the President stated the reasons he declined to assent to the bills.

President Buhari said the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill covers too many technical subjects and “fails to address any of them extensively”, hence his decision to decline to assent the bill.

The bill transmitted to the president weeks ago is an “act to provide for the protection of the human rights online, to protect internet users in Nigeria from infringement of their fundamental freedoms and to guarantee application of human rights for users of digital platforms and/or digital media and for related matters”.

President Buhari further stated in his letter detailing the reason for declining assent that the technical subjects which include surveillance and digital protection, lawful interception of communication, digital protection and retention 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,” the letter said

On his decision not to sign the Nigerian Film Commission bill into law, he highlighted a conflict in some sections of the proposed bill.

“Section 1 (k) of the bill states that 1% of the proceeds for the television license for the national broadcasting commission shall be paid into a fund to be controlled by the national film commission, it is conflict with section 16 (1) of the national broadcasting commission act which stipulates the purpose for which expenditure to be generated by NBC may be used.

“Section 7 (2) (d) of the bill proposed 5% VAT on all film related activities to the national film development fund violates section 40 of the Valued Added Tax and ensuring formula described there in because it averts funds normally distributed to states of the federation.”

The President, who recently won the 2019 election still contested in court, said the Immigration Amendment bill could not be given assent because of “the concerns expressed to the retroactive effective of the provisions of 38 (5) of the bill and the impact of the section on the ease of doing business initiative of the federal government.

He further stated that “the bill will be destructive to Nigerians in diaspora if other countries were to reciprocate the provisions of section 38 (5) in their immigration laws” if passed into law.

Buhari noted there will be duplication of functions with an already constituted institute if the Chartered Institute of Pension Practitioners bill is passed into law.

He noted in his letter: “the objectives of the Chartered Institute of Pension Practitioners created by the bill are similar to the objectives of the Signified Pension Institute of Nigeria which is already in existence and functional and this will amount to duplication of the functions of a separately constituted institute. Concerns have also been raised in connection with the propriety of the private investigate panel in conducting criminal investigation as suggested by section 8 (1) of the bill.”

The climate change bill was also not signed because of a case of function replication. He also lamented the huge expense in setting up a council. The president said in his letter that “the scope and guiding principle of the bill replicates the function of the federal ministry of environment which is charged with mainstreaming climate responses and actions into government polices but does not suggest the scrapping of the ministry.

“Setting up a council as suggested by Section 2 of the bill is expensive to maintain as it amount to proliferation of government agencies especially when there are existing agencies already performing the proposed functions.”


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