Thursday, May 21, 2015

Nigeria’s President Jonathan Signs the Cybercrime Bill Into Law

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has signed the Cybercrime Bill into law, according to a report from ITRealms, citing an unnamed source who revealed that the President signed it into law late afternoon on Friday at Aso Villa, Abuja.

The news comes just about 14 days before the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari-led government comes into power on May 29.

Back in January 2015, there were news reports that President Jonathan had forwarded the Cybercrime Bill to the Senate to be enacted into law and the Chairman, House Committee on Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Dr. Ibrahim Shehu Gusau had allayed fears that the bill would be signed into law before May 29.

The legislation is expected to provide for measures for the prevention, prohibition, combating of cybercrimes and threats to the cyberspace and to prescribe punishment for cybercrimes in Nigeria.

According to the National Assembly website, the Senate at a plenary session on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 passed the harmonized Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Bill 2015 (S.B. 438) into law. 
"The passage of the Bill followed the presentation of Senate Conference Committee Report on the harmonized legislation by the Committee Chairman, Sen. Umaru Dahiru. On receipt of the report, the Senate approved and adopted the report as well as put the Bill on voice vote before Distinguished Senators and it sailed through," the NASS website added.
Gbénga Sèsan the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, a civil society organization that has made repeated calls for cybercrime legislation in Nigeria, says the Cybercrime Bill being signed into law by the out-going President concludes a process that started 11 years ago.

“Nigeria has always needed a cybercrime bill to address one of our most notorious labels and extend order to the online space and though this took a very long time (it’s been 11 years since former President Obasanjo set up the National Cybercrime Working Group), there are many merits.” 

The much-clamoured and highly-anticipated cybercrime legislation has suffered set backs over the years before it finally sailed through on votes by the country’s lawmakers at the National Assembly.

However, it is unclear which version of the bill was signed into law, as we’ve gathered that stakeholders had earlier suggested the removal of certain clauses in the bill that might be used to suppress Internet freedom and civil liberties.

Sèsan says the position of his organisation throughout its engagement has been “the demand for a firm but fair law”. According to him, the law needed to be “firm enough to deter from crime but fair enough not to hurt Internet Freedom or set traps for those government considers unfriendly (activists, opposition, media, etc).”

He further added that Paradigm Initiative Nigeria will study the version signed by the president and share their view with stakeholders. They will also continue to pursue a Digital Rights and Freedom Bill to make sure that citizens’ digital rights are also protected by law.

“Once the 8th Assembly begins, we hope legislators take advantage of the work Paradigm Initiative Nigeria and our NetRightsNG coalition partners have done to give Nigerians a Digital Rights and Freedom law,” he stated.

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