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Revised digital rights bill passes first reading

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Deliberations on the possible passage of a revised Digital Rights Bill has begun at the House of Representatives after President Muhammadu Buhari declined assent to a similar bill in February.

The bill seeks to protect the rights of internet users in Nigeria from infringement of their fundamental freedoms and to guarantee the application of human rights for users of digital platforms.

“On April 18, 2019, we hosted a stakeholder roundtable in Abuja to review the reasons President Buhari declined assent to the Bill,” Paradigm Initiative’s program manager Boye Adegoke said.

“The roundtable gave a unique opportunity for us to get robust stakeholder feedback and buy-in into the objective of the Bill from stakeholders.”

“We have on the basis of that revised the Bill and we are glad for the immediate attention it has received from the National Assembly,” he added.

In February this year, President Buhari declined assent to the Bill after it was passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate at the 8th National Assembly.

“It is my utmost pleasure to sponsor this Bill given its relevance in the digital age,” the sponsor of the Bill and the Chief Whip of the House of Representatives Honorable Tahir Mohammed Monguno said.

“The Internet is opening up new possibilities for Nigeria’s teeming young population. As a legislator, I hold the firm belief that we must encourage young people by assuring them of their protection when doing legitimate activities on digital platforms.”

The Executive director of paradigm initiative Gbenga Sesan stated that the organisation’s team worked with the Ministry of Justice, the Nigeria Communications Commission and other stakeholders and partners in producing the current version of the Bill, which henced the confidence in the revised bill.

He, however, maintained that he is optimistic that the president will be impressed by the revised bill and assent it.

“The President was clear when he declined assent to the Bill in the 8th NASS that he will be happy to sign the Bill if his concerns were addressed,” Sesan said.

“Those concerns have now been addressed and the Bill has started another legislative journey. We hope that the President will keep his word,” he added.

The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, 2019 was first read on the floor of the House on July 16, 2019. The Bill must be passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate before it is sent to the president for assent.


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