Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill into Law, saying it will be a major legacy of his Presidency which will benefit millions of Nigerians for years to come.
In a statement in Lagos recently, MRA said by speedily assenting to the Bill, which was transmitted to him for signature by the National Assembly on February 5, 2019, President Buhari would be confirming his administration’s support for Internet freedom for Nigerians.
Praising the National Assembly for the swift consideration and passage of the Bill by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, MRA’s Executive Director, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, described the proposed Law as “a strong piece of legislation that conforms strongly to global norms and standards and will effectively protect the rights of Nigerians on the Internet and in the digital environment.”
The Bill was passed by the House of Representatives on December 19, 2017 and similarly passed by the Senate on March 13, 2018 but was transmitted to the President on February 5, 2019 owing the a clerical error in the version passed, which the National Assembly had to correct.
Calling on President Buhari to assent to the Bill without delay and thereby demonstrate his willingness to protect the rights of all Nigerians online as they are protected offline, Ojo said: “The Bill provides a comprehensive framework for the advancement, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet and in the digital environment, consistent with Nigeria’s regional and international obligations under various international human rights instruments, some of which Nigeria has led in bringing into being by co-sponsoring”.
He however reminded the President that: “Nigeria played a leading role on the global stage in 2012 when it led in co-sponsoring the landmark Resolution on the Promotion, Protection and Enjoyment of Human Rights on the Internet at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, alongside Sweden, the United States, Brazil, Turkey and Tunisia, wherein it was affirmed that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression, which is applicable regardless of frontiers and through any media of one’s choice.”
He pointed out that the resolution brought Nigeria tremendous respect and acclaim from around the world and therefore urged the President to sign the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill “in keeping with the groundbreaking direction and guidance which this Resolution provided to the global community on human rights online.”
In addition, Ojo said, the Digital Rights and Freedom Act will help boost an innovative environment for Nigerians, as well as accelerate the country’s development in the digital age by allowing all Nigerians take maximum advantage of emerging opportunities, adding that this will be beneficial to the government and its efforts to ensure the economic growth of Nigeria including though its recent Enabling Business Environment initiative.
He added that: “The Bill, when it becomes Law, will bring Nigeria’s domestic law, policy and practices with regards to the protection of human rights on the Internet into conformity with this international norm that we were central as a nation in developing and bequeathing to the global community.”
MRA also called on all other stakeholders, especially the media and civil society actors, the business community, the telecommunication sector etc. to lend their voices to the advocacy for speedy presidential assent and subsequently, ensure that they monitor its implementation and ensure that its provisions are applied in practice.
According to Ojo, if passed into law, this piece of legislation will impact positively the personal and professional lives of all Nigerians who are connected to the Internet as well as those who will be connected in the future. He added that it is essential for all stakeholders to contribute to this process in every way possible including through advocacy, by writing about it, facilitating discussions and debates, playing their roles in ensuring its implementation and encouraging other members of society to do so as well.”
He also applauded Paradigm Initiative which led and coordinated the multi-stakeholder efforts that led to the development and drafting of the Bill and resulted in its speedy passage by the National Assembly, saying it has once again demonstrated the power of civil society to positively affect the fortunes of Nigeria and Nigerians.