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Nigeria's Senate commended for passing Digital Rights Bill

Nigeria's Senate commended for passing Digital Rights Bill

Pan-African digital rights organisation Paradigm Initiative has lauded Nigeria's Senate for finally passing the Digital Rights Bill yesterday afternoon. The Bill has now been passed by the two legislative houses after the Nigerian House of Representatives also passed it on 19 December last year.

Adeboye Adegoke, Program Manager for Paradigm Initiative's Digital Rights says passage of this Bill is a sign of commitment from both legislative institutions to the development of digital rights in Nigeria.

"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."

The Bill is a product of civil society efforts that started during the 2014 Internet Freedom Forum in Abuja led by the Paradigm Initiative. The Bill was then sponsored by Hon Chukwuemeka Ujamat at the House of Representatives where it was eventually passed in December 2017 following a rigorous legislative process.

It was then tabled before the Senate for concurrence on 16 January 2018, and was finally passed yesterday with its guarantees of protection of human rights online for internet users in Nigeria. The bill prevents infringement of their fundamental freedoms or human rights of users of digital platforms.

Tope Ogundipe, Director of Programs at Paradigm Initiative says the Bill will also bring economic benefits for Nigeria.

"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."

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". It also makes provisions geared towards the protection of data and right to privacy online through Clause 5 which 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 which will transform the bill to a law thereby making it Nigeria's first law on human rights online, according to Paradigm Initiative.

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