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Digital Rights and Freedom Bill: Why Buhari maybe right to decline assent

Basically, the Digital Right and Freedom bill is aimed at protecting the rights of Nigerian online users. 

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BREAKING: President Buhari retains portfolio as Petroleum Minister

Nigerians’ collective sigh of relief over the possibility of finally getting an all-inclusive legislation on digital rights, was aborted on Wednesday when President Muhammadu Buhari declined assent to the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill.

Senate informed of the refusal through a letter: The President rejected the bill through a letter that was submitted to the Senate President and read during the legislature’s plenary session. Alongside the Digital Right and Freedom Bill, four other bills were also declined assent.

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Why the President refused to assent: According to the presidency, the Digital Right and Freedom Bill was not assented because it contains too many technical subjects. It also did not extensively address any of the said subjects. Some of  the technical subjects as highlighted by Presidency, include: surveillance and digital protection, lawful interception of communication, digital protection and retention, etc.

Why the Digital Right and Freedom Bill?

In today’s world, access to digital platforms influences most aspects of people’s lives and work.

With an internet penetration rate of 46%, Nigeria has the largest number of internet users in Africa, and 7th in the world. Hence, the need for a law that governs, protects, administers/enforces the digital human rights becomes important.

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Also, as technology continues to shape and disrupt the global current landscape, measures must be put in place to ensure sanctity for the citizens.

If the Digital Right and Freedom Bill was signed, it would have catapulted Nigeria to the comity of nations leading the charge for the protection of digital rights and online freedom.

Basically, the Digital Right and Freedom bill is focused on protecting the rights of Nigerian online users. It also protects internet users in Nigeria from the infringement of their fundamental freedoms.

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Technically, the bill’s objectives are:

  • To guarantee the application of human rights offline and online within the digital space.
  • To provide safeguards against abuse and provide opportunities for redress where infringement occurs.
  • To ensure data privacy and safeguard sensitive citizens’ data held by government and privacy institutions.
  • To equip the judiciary with the necessary framework to protect human rights online.
  • To safeguard the digital liberty of Nigerians now and in the future.

Declined assent on bill a huge setback

Earlier, there have been pressures from activists and social groups for the president to approve the long-standing Digital Right and Freedom Bill, however, the President eventually declined to assent to the bill.

The Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, Gbenga Sesan earlier remarked:

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‘Signing the bill, President Muhammadu Buhari will “position Nigeria as a leader in rights-respecting law in Africa.”

Commenting on the Digital Right and Freedom Bill transmission, Web Foundation’s Interim Policy Director, Nnenna Nwakanma, said:

“This Bill is important right now, not only for the digital rights of Nigerians but as a signal that Nigeria intends to be a regional tech leader. We’re urging the National Assembly to put this forward to the presidency for signature as a matter of urgency so Nigerian web users can be protected in an online environment that guarantees them the same rights online as offline.”

The Nigerian Film Commission bill and three others were also declined assent

The President refused to append his signature to four other bills which include Nigeria Film Commission Bill, Immigration Amendment Bill, Climate Change Bill and Pension Practitioners of Nigeria Bill. The President cited several reasons why the other bills were also declined assents. 

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Buhari may be right, as earlier report already revealed the bill’s legal loopholes

According to the report by Doa-law firm in 2018, there were several surrounding issues to stall the bill. These include ambiguity and the utilisation of many undefined terms in the bill. For example:

  • The use of “personal data” and “private data” interchangeably in various sections of the proposed legislation without defining them.
  • Words such as “responsible party” require a more robust and comprehensive definition.
  • The terms “service provider” is undefined by the proposed bill which added the tone of ambiguity to the section.
  • Also, liability for a breach of data should be limited to such an extent that where a service provider has put in place reasonable security measures.
  • Another frailty noted in the bill is the absence of any provision that addresses the obligations of Data controllers, Processor and Service provider.
  • The law firm stressed that the passage of the bill without addressing issues highlighted would be to the detriment of the citizenry whose data would be the subject matter of such breach.
  • It was concluded that the bill may need to e reconsidered as it does appear to be quite harsh and may need restructuring at the committee team.

Way forward, Activists sue the President 

Rights groups, the Digital Rights Lawyers Initiative, and Laws and Rights Awareness Initiative have sued President Muhammadu Buhari at the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja for not signing the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill 2018.

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They are seeking a declaration that, by virtue of Section 58(4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the defendant lacks power “to remain silent and/or inactive” on the bill after 30 days of its transmission.

They are praying the court to declare that the President’s silence on the bill after 30 days of its transmission constitutes a violation of Section 58(4) of the 1999 Constitution.

Patricia

Samuel is an Analyst with over 5 years experience. Connect with him via his twitter handle

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Business News

Just In: Court rules ICAN members do not need CITN license to file tax returns

The suit, which was filed some years ago by CITN, was basically struck out for lacking merit.

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Justice S. A. Onigbanjo of the High Court of Lagos State has ruled that members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) do not need to be licensed by the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) before they can file tax returns.

The ruling on July 2nd followed a suit filed by CITN trying to restrain ICAN members from filing tax returns for their clients unless they have a practicing license from the CITN.

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Evidence of the court ruling, as seen by Nairametrics, noted that Justice Onigbanjo struck out the suit after describing it as “an abuse of court process and an embarrassment to the judiciary.”

More details shortly… 

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Entertainment

Multichoice group adds live sports to streaming service, Showmax

Showmax Pro in Nigeria and Kenya will also have news and music channels.

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Multichoice group to add live sports to streaming service, Showmax

In a bid to compete better with Netflix and Amazon, Africa’s biggest pay-TV firm, Multichoice Group Ltd, has started streaming live sports including Premier League soccer through an upgraded version of its Showmax service.

According to the head of the company’s Connected Video Division, Niclas Ekdahl, Multichoice is offering the new Showmax Pro in Nigeria and Kenya as of Tuesday and will add more sub-Saharan African countries over the next 2 months.

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This business decision is designed to attract more subscribers and set Showmax apart from Netflix and Amazon Prime, which have both been expanding aggressively in Africa.

Multichoice had launched the video-on-demand service 5 years ago in order to halt movements from its more expensive TV service, thereby positioning itself as a better provider of more localized content than Netflix and Amazon.

READ MORE:DStv earns most preferred pay Tv recognition during festive season)

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However, in order to keep up with the trend, Netflix started to commission and screen Africa-produced dramas such as Queen Sono and Blood and Water, as part of its own strategy to attract viewers. Faster internet connections and cheaper packages on the continent have equally made online streaming a viable alternative to pay-TV.

The SuperSport unit of Multichoice is the most attractive of the media group’s broadcasts, showing live sports events like soccer, rugby, cricket and golf from all over the world. Sharing content with Showmax risks encouraging subscribers to move to a cheaper platform, although the Pro offering will be more expensive than the currently available service.

Showmax Pro, which will also have news and music channels, costs $19.66 a month in Kenya, compared with $7.11 for the sport-less version. DSTV packages in the East African country, with varying amounts of the sport, range from $39.32 to as much as $69.01.

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According to Ekdahl, “A cheaper, smartphone-based version is also planned. With the mobile-only version, anyone with a smartphone in sub-Saharan Africa can access our content offering. This is something no other service is doing and we think it’s a game changer.”

It can be recalled that just last month, MultiChoice signed deals with Netflix and Amazon to offer their streaming services through its new decoder. The move is to help Africa’s largest pay-TV firm retain teeming subscribers and attract potential viewers.

 

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Around the World

Africa’s GDP could fall by 3.4% in 2020 if COVID-19 continues – AfDB 

The bank warns projected GDP losses for 2021 ranges from $27.6 billion to $47 billion.

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Akinwunmi Adesina, Afdb, Africa’s GDP could fall by 3.4% in 2020 if COVID-19 continues – AFDB

The African Development Bank (AFDB) published its African Economic Outlook 20202 Supplement on Tuesday and warned that the continent’s GDP would fall by at least 1.7%, and if the coronavirus pandemic continues into the second half of 2020, it could contract up to 3.4%. 

“Real GDP in Africa is projected to contract by 1.7% in 2020, dropping by 5.6 percentage points from the January 2020 pre-COVID-19 projection of the virus, if the virus has a substantial impact but of short duration. If it continues beyond the first half of 2020, there would be a deeper GDP contraction in 20202 of 3.4% down by 7.3 percentage points from growth projected before the outbreak of COVID-19,” the bank said. 

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AFDB warns that cumulative GDP losses could range between $173.1 billion and $236.7 billion in 2020-2021. 

“Africa could suffer GDP losses in 20202 between $145.5 billion (baseline) and $189.7 billion (worst case) from the pre-COVID-19 estimated GDP of $2.59 trillion for 2020”. 

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The bank warned some losses will be carried over into 2021, as the projected recovery would be partial, and warns projected GDP losses for 2021 ranges from $27.6 billion to $47 billion (worst case). 

The bank said countries with poor healthcare systems, oil-exporting nations, tourism-dependent nations and other resource-dependent nations will be the hardest hit. 

The bank calls for countries to reopen economies and advised a “phased and incremental approach that carefully evaluates the trade-off between restarting economic activity to quickly and safeguarding the health of the population”. 

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The Economic Outlook Supplement is a revised projection from an earlier January outlook that projected 3.9% growth from Africa’s largest multilateral bank. 

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