The Nigerian Senate at around 1:09 pm today passed the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, following in the footsteps of the Nigerian House of Representatives which passed the Bill on December 19, 2018.
In a statement following the passage of the Bill at the Senate, pan-African digital rights organization, Paradigm Initiative commended the two legislative houses for passing the important bill.
The Bill, a product of civil society efforts led by Paradigm Initiative beginning at the 2014 Internet Freedom Forum in Abuja, “provides for the protection of 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.”
In 2016, Hon Chukwuemeka Ujam sponsored the Bill at the House of Representatives where the bill underwent rigorous legislative process before its eventual passage last December. The Bill was first tabled before the Senate for concurrence on January 16 2018, and was finally passed today.
Speaking on the importance of the bill, Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights Program Manager, Boye Adegoke, said, “By the passage of this BIll, the legislative arm of government has shown a commitment to the development of digital rights in Nigeria.”
He added, “I am most excited about the provisions in this Bill regarding freedom of expression online. The bill will ensure that citizens can freely express their opinions online without interference. This is such a positive development at a time when Nigeria is moving into an election season and there are legitimate fears that there may be moves by some political interests to gag free speech in the country. The positive leadership of the National Assembly on the issue is quite commendable,” Adegoke concluded.
Also speaking on the passage, the Director of Programs of Paradigm Initiative, Tope Ogundipe said “Nigeria has demonstrated remarkable leadership on the continent by passing this Bill. The Bill is quite important to the future of innovation and Nigeria’s digital economy in essence. It represents the needed framework to attract the partnership of global brands in the digital economy.”
The bill provides progressive legislative backing to online speech in the country. Clause 14 of the bill reads, “Every person shall have the right to freely express opinion online without interference, this right includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, regardless of digital frontiers”. Under this Bill, freedom of expression further includes the freedom to express and impart information and ideas of all kinds that can be transmitted to others, in whatever form, and regardless of media.
The Bill also made provisions geared towards the protection of data and right to privacy online. Clause 5 of the Bill reads “(1) Every person is guaranteed the confidentiality of his personal data.
(2) The integrity and confidentiality of personal data and information of citizens is inviolable and therefore guaranteed… (6) All entities that collect, store and/or process personal data in the course of their activities shall have data privacy policies that are readily and easily accessible to the public.”
The Bill will now be presented to President Muhammadu Buhari for the presidential assent to transform the bill to a law, making it Nigeria’s first law on human rights online.