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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.

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:

‘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

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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.

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.

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

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Tech News

MTN, Vodacom launched 5G in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 – GSMA Report

Vodacom and MTN launched their first major 5G networks in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2020, according to the GSMA 2020 report.

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The Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) 2020 report revealed that Vodacom and MTN launched their first major 5G networks in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2020.

The telecoms operators offered 5G mobile and fixed wireless access (FWA) services in several locations across South Africa – this appears to be a welcome development, as the South African government had already assigned temporary spectrum in the 3.5 GHz range in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Obviously, the proximate opportunity to be harnessed for the 5G in South Africa is to use FWA to bridge the gap in fixed broadband connectivity for homes and businesses.

According to the report, there has been 5G trial runs in almost all the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, including Gabon, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda but the possibility of mass deployment of the 5G network is still not guaranteed, as there are significant levels of unused 4G capacity. Also, the 4G adoption rate is still relatively low, creating opportunities for the operators to increase their stakes in 4G.

As a boost to mop up the unused 4G capacity, the partnership between Safaricom and Google to finance the acquisition of 4G smartphones, provides the desired momentum as low-income consumers pay for 4G devices in convenient and flexible daily installments.

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According to the report, it is expected that over the next five years, the number of smartphone connections in Sub-Saharan Africa will almost double to reach 678 million by the end of 2025 — an adoption rate of 65%.

What you should know

  • It is expected that by 2025, there will be a little below 30 million mobile 5G connections in Sub-Saharan Africa, equivalent to almost 3% of total mobile connections.
  • The mobile market in the region will reach several important milestones over the next five years: half a billion mobile subscribers in 2021, 1 billion mobile connections in 2024, and 50% subscriber penetration by 2025.
  • The achievement of these critical milestones would be predicated on the operators’ commitment in providing reliable infrastructural networks across the region.
  • Between 2019 and 2025, the operators in the region would have expended/invested about the sum of $52billion in infrastructure rollouts.
  • The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting more than 750 operators with almost 400 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organizations in adjacent industry sectors.

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Financial Services

Stamp Duty on Nigerian Stock market transactions pegged at 0.08% from December 7

The NSE has given clarifications on the public notice released by the FIRS, itemizing contract notes at an ad valorem rate of 0.08%.

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NSE prepares to launch West Africa’s first Exchange-traded derivatives

The Nigerian Stock Exchange has given clarifications on the public notice released by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) in July, itemizing contract notes at an ad valorem rate of 0.08% up from 0.075%, effective 7th December 2020.

The circular released by the Nigerian Stock Exchange reads:

“In reference to the Public Notice in the Business Day Newspaper of Monday, 20 July 2020, captioned ‘Clarification of Administration of Stamp Duties in Nigeria’ issued by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) (A copy is attached as Appendix A for ease of reference).

The Public Notice provided, amongst other things, information on dutiable instruments and the applicable flat or ad valorem rates, with Contract Notes 1 itemized at an ad valorem rate of 0.08%. As you know, this is at variance with the current rate of 0.075% administered in the Nigerian Capital Market.”

To that extent, Dealing Members of the Nigerian Stock Exchange are to note the following:

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  • Effective December 7, 2020, the Central Securities Clearing System Plc. (CSCS) will adjust its system to implement the automated deduction of the Stamp Duty rate of 0.08%.
  • Dealing Members are required to immediately engage their software vendors for the required adjustments to their technology applications, to reflect the 0.08% rate ahead of the effective date of 7 December 2020.
  • Dealing Members are required to communicate the changes above to their clients immediately, ahead of the effective date.

What you should know

Nairametrics revealed that the FIRS listed at least 50 types of transactions that are eligible for stamp duty deductions.

Some of the listed chargeable transactions include bank deposit or transfer, loan agreement, Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), sales agreement, will, tenancy/lease agreement, and all receipts.

The FIRS noted that the recently inaugurated FIRS Adhesive Stamp is not the same as the postage stamp administered by NIPOST for the purposes of delivery of items and documents.

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The Stamp Duties Act, 19391 defines Contact Notes as “the note sent by a broker or agent to his principal, or by any person who, by way of business, deals, or holds himself out as dealing, as a principal in any stock or marketable securities, advising the principal, or the vendor or purchaser, as the case may be, of the sale or purchase of any stock or marketable security, but does not include a note sent by a broker or agent to his principal where the principal is himself acting as broker or agent for a principal.”

See the circular below:

Download (PDF, 566KB)

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Coronavirus

Covid-19: UK to approve Pfizer, BioTNech vaccine, to start immunization December 7

The UK government is set to approve the COVID-19 vaccine developed by BioNTech SE and Pfizer Inc next week.

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Covid-19: AstraZeneca vaccine gets huge boost, produces immune response in elderly, Vaccine, COVID-19: Russia to roll out vaccine in September ahead of the West 

The global reception of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc in collaboration with BioNTech following the positive outcome of its phase 3 trial, seems to have intensified as it is set for approval by the UK medical regulator.

According to Reuters, a report from Financial Times on Saturday suggests that deliveries would commence within hours of the authorization with the first immunizations using the BioNTech and Pfizer vaccine possibly taking place from December 7.

The UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, had earlier in the day, named Nadhim Zahawi, who is the current junior business minister, as the minister responsible for the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines.

The UK government has placed an order for 40 million doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, which has been found to be 95% effective in the final analysis of the phase 3 trials in preventing the spread of a virus that has killed over 1.4 million people across the world with its devastating impact on the global economy.

The UK government had on November 20, formally asked its medical regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), to conduct a study of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine with a view to determining its suitability, the first step in making it available outside the United State

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The government which had secured 100 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and University of Oxford had also asked the regulator on Friday to assess the vaccine for a possible rollout before Christmas.

What you should know: The US drugmaker, Pfizer Inc, on November 18, 2020, announced that a final analysis of clinical-trial data of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine, which it is developing in collaboration with BioTNech, showed it was 95% effective, thereby paving the way for the company to apply for the first U.S. regulatory authorization for a coronavirus shot.

Pfizer said they had no serious safety concerns in a trial that involves almost 44,000 participants as their vaccine protected people of all ages and ethnicities.

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