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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.

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

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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Corporate Press Releases

Tony Elumelu named in “Time 100” list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World 2020

The UBA and Transcorp Plc Chair is one of three Nigerians on the list, alongside Tomi Adeyemi and Tunji Funsho.

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UBA’s Tony Elumelu, Wizkid

TIME has named Tony O. Elumelu, one of Africa’s leading investors and philanthropists, in the 2020 TIME100, the annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. The list, now in its seventeenth year, recognises the activism, innovation, and achievement of the world’s most influential individuals. Mr Elumelu, who is one of only four Africans on the 2020 list, is recognised for his track record of business turnaround and value creation, and economic empowerment of young Africans.

Tony Elumelu is the Founder and Chairman of Heirs Holdings, his family-owned investment company, committed to improving lives and transforming Africa, through long-term investments in strategic sectors of the African economy, including financial services, hospitality, power, energy and healthcare. He is the Chairman of top pan-African financial services group, the United Bank for Africa (UBA), which operates in 20 countries in Africa, the United Kingdom, France, and is the only African bank with a commercial deposit taking licence in the United States. The bank provides corporate, commercial, SME and consumer banking services to more than 21 million customers globally.  Elumelu also chairs Nigeria’s largest quoted conglomerate, Transcorp,  whose subsidiaries include Transcorp Power, one of the leading generators of electricity in Nigeria and Transcorp Hotels Plc, Nigeria’s foremost hospitality brand.

Mr Elumelu is the most prominent champion of entrepreneurship in Africa. In 2010, he created The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), the philanthropy empowering a new generation of African entrepreneurs, catalysing economic growth, driving poverty eradication and ensuring job creation across all 54 African countries. Since inception, the Foundation has funded just under 10,000 entrepreneurs and created a digital ecosystem of over one million as part of its ten year, US$100m commitment through the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme.  Self-funded, the Foundation is increasingly sharing its unique ability to identify, train, mentor and fund young entrepreneurs across Africa, with institutions such as the UNDP, the ICRC and leading European development agencies.

Heirs Holdings, which serves as a corporate role model for African businesses, and the Tony Elumelu Foundation will both celebrate 10 years of impact in November. Their mission continues to be inspired by Mr Elumelu’s economic philosophy of Africapitalism, which positions the private sector, and most importantly entrepreneurs, as the catalyst for the social and economic development of the continent.

The full list of the 2020 TIME100 and tributes appear on time.com/time100.

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Business

Rack Centre to create West Africa’s largest data centre in $100m expansion

Rack Centre’s expansion programme will increase capacity to a total net lettable white space of 6000 square metres.

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Leading carrier neutral data centre operator in West Africa, Rack Centre, has announced an expansion programme that will increase capacity to a total net lettable white space of 6000 square metres, which will pave way for 13MW of  IT power capacity in its Lagos campus.

This was disclosed in a press release by the company, which was seen by Nairametrics.

The expansion is expected to bring carrier neutral scale to West Africa, and this is in response to increasing demand for data centre space from cloud uptake, telecommunication investment and outsourcing of IT facilities by enterprises in the region.

The funding for this expansion will come from a $250m pan-African data centre platform, established by Actis and Convergence Partners, a leading ICT infrastructure investor in Africa.

In addition to the expansion in  Rack Centre, the platform is also actively developing additional buy and build opportunities across Africa, to establish a network of carrier neutral data centres aimed at catering to carrier, cloud and hyperscale customers. 

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Back story:  It is noteworthy that on March 2020, in a bid to pave way for the expansion programme, Actis, a London private equity firm, announced an investment in Rack Centre, taking a controlling stake in the business alongside Jagal.

Why this matters

Nigeria is a key entry point for global telecommunications, content, and cloud players seeking access to the region. Despite the potentials of the country; with 138 million internet subscribers, more than any country in Africa or Europe, and the largest population and GDP in Africa, a lack of cost-effective, energy-efficient IT infrastructure, has been a constraint to doing business in the region. 

However, in a bid to create unrestricted connectivity between customers, telecommunication carriers, and internet exchange points within its data centres in the region, as a unique scale carrier neutral player, Rack Centre brings global best practice to Nigeria, as the first carrier neutral data centre in the region, to achieve Uptime Institute Tier III Certification of Constructed Facility (TCCF).

The global leaders that the platform has engaged include:

  • Tim Parsonson, Co-founder, Teraco Data Environments – the largest carrier neutral operator in Africa, who joins the Board as Chairperson on the board.
  • Frank Hassett, a veteran of the global data centre industry and previous Vice President of Infrastructure, at Equinix, brings over 1300MW of build and operate experience, to assist with hyperscale expansion.

While speaking on the expansion of capacity, Andile Ngcaba, Chairman of Convergence Partners, said;  “Africa is at the start of a critical time in its development, as the 4th industrial revolution offers the chance to leapfrog many of Africa’s challenges, and harness the immense potential of its people. Convergence Partners is delighted to partner with Actis in accelerating the growth of high quality data centre infrastructure, an indispensable part of the foundation of this revolution in the region.”

Dr Ayotunde Coker, Managing Director of Rack Centre, emphasized that the group is proud of the quality and scale bar which they have set in the region.

“We are proud of the quality and scale bar we have set in the region and are scaling to be the de-facto digital data hub for West Africa

“Mass adoption of digital working models and content distribution is driving growing investment in the region and Rack Centre offers a world class location to house these IT and telecoms facilities,” Coker said.

Supporting this ambition, engineering consultancy Arup, have been appointed for the project.  The leadership status of Arup is uncontested,  having designed over 2,000MW of IT capacity for industry-leading tech giants, and co-location providers across the globe.

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Energy

Experts pick holes in pump pricing of petrol, proffer solutions 

Experts give their views as Nigerians grapple with the effects of an increase in petrol pump price.

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Subsidy and PIB, petrol price, PPPRA, We have sufficient PMS stock for 38 days- DPR 

The recent sharp increase in the pump price of petrol has been greeted with shock and condemnations from  Nigerians, as it is coming at a time the global price of crude oil dropped or been static at best. 

This is also happening at a time, where Nigerians are grappling with the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy, leading to a significant drop in the income of Nigerians. 

This price increment is the resultant effect of subsidy removal, and full deregulation of the downstream oil sector by the Federal Government, which has been on the policy agenda of past governments, starting with Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration to the present administration of Muhammadu Buhari. This is further exacerbated by the fact that, the country imports over 90% of its refined petroleum product, athe refineries have not been working optimally. 

While announcing the implementation of the full deregulation of the downstream oil sector, with the removal of the existing cap on fuel prices, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), noted that henceforth the pump price would be fully determined by market forces. 

In response to some comments and innuendos, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, said the deregulation policy, was to ensure economic growth and development of the country. He insisted that it was unrealistic for government to continue to subsidize petrol, as it had no economic value. 

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Sylva explained that subsidy was benefitting mostly the richrather than the poor and ordinary Nigerians. He said the policy is in line with the global best practiceas the government will continue to play its traditional role of regulation, to ensure that this strategic commodity is not priced arbitrarily by private oil marketing firms. 

The importance and critical nature of petrol seems to be what is driving the condemnation and protests amongst many Nigerians. This is because the demand for petrol is not price elasticwhich means, an increase in the price of petrol, does not necessarily produce a decrease in demand, due to the importance of the product in driving different sectors of the economy. 

One of the most critical issues that is generating intense debate on the deregulation policy of the downstream oil sector, visavis the sharp increase in the pump price of petrol is, why the increase?  

Especially, when you consider that there has not been any major increase in the global price of crude oil, which is the main component in determining the pump price of petrol. In fact, the price of crude oil has been on a decline recently.   

Recall that, Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of NNPC, in an internal memo, to oil marketers and stakeholders, increased the ex-depot price of fuel from N138. 62 per litre to N151.56 per litre. Some analysts have suggested that the increase could be attributed to the high exchange rate, following the devaluation of the naira against the dollar, and rising costs in the value chain. But the very critical question is, is the devaluation of the naira enough to drive such increase? 

The Managing Director of 11 Plc (formerly Mobil Oil Plc), Adetunji Oyebanji, who also doubles as the Chairman of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN, had about a fortnight ago, said the retail pump price of petrol should be around N155 per litre 

In his analysis of the development, Professor Adeola Adenikinju, Director, Centre for Petroleum Energy Economics and LawUniversity of Ibadan said, The major drivers of PMS price in a deregulated environment are the price of crude oil and the exchange rate. However, in many countries, governments also levy indirect taxes on petroleum products, to fund government road and other developmental projects, because of their inelastic demand.

“In Nigeria, NNPC gets the exchange rate at the official rate of about N386/$1. At that exchange rate, and given the current crude oil price of about $42.60 per barrel for Bonny Light, the current pump price of PMS of around N151.56 per litre is not justified by this analyst’s calculations, even if other cost components like distribution and marketing margins are included, except if BDC exchange rate or other charges are included. 

He expressed his support for the liberalization of the petroleum downstream sector, that will encompass opening up the sector to all players, not just NNPC. He said we need real competition in the market place, as that is the only way to bring effective competition and allow retail price to reflect marginal opportunity costs of PMS. 

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Going further he said, We found ourselves in an embarrassing position as a major oil exporting country, that is also a major importer of refined products. A substantial part of what constitutes the costs of refined products now, including taxes in importing countries, shipping, finance costs, ports charges, lightering charges etc., are all avoidable costs, if we have a thriving and efficient domestic refinery sector. 

“There is currently some opaqueness in the activities of the NNPC in the current subsidy system. The government is losing out on how much the NNPC transfers to the federation accounts for handling the government share of crude oil. NNPC is charging the government and Nigerians, not just the under-recovery amount, but also nebulous charges like costs of pipeline repairs, and estimates of crude oil losses.’’ 

On his own part, an Oil and Gas Expert, Olumide Ibikunle, disclosed that the global crude oil prices are majorly linked to the price of the final product, which are refined products like petrol, diesel, kerosene, and then foreign exchange. However, he admitted that there are other elements in the pricing template.  

He said, You need to realize thatthere are other elements of the pricing template. I just mentioned 2 of the most important ones, which are the exchange rate and the crude oil prices. There are other items like international shipping cost, which is also a key part of itlithering costs; freight costs, also depending on the availability of tankers for instance, if tankers are not available in the international market to ship refined productsthe cost of moving refined products also increases. 

He said that at best, what we have is partial deregulation, as government is trying to guard against the volatility of the global crude oil priceswhich changes on a daily basis. He pointed out that, it is not good to have prices of petrol fluctuate every day at the retail stations. Hence, the introduction of price modulation mechanism by government, to manage those volatilities. 

Olumide also said, These products are ordered in advance. I don’t need PMS today and place the order today. I place the order 2 or 3 months in advance. You must realize the dynamics at that time versus what it is now, might be different. so that consideration is also something that fits into the price consideration, and we must also factor that in.”

“So, if prices are N160 today, perhaps it is reflective of the $46 or $45 per barrel, that we saw 2 months ago. Hence, what you see in October or November, will be reflective of what you see in September,he concluded. 

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It does seem the recent increase is driven mostly by the exchange rate, but inability to get our refineries working at optimal capacity, government taxes, and the inefficiencies in the system, which is superintended by the Federal Government. 

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