The Institute for Media and Society (IMS) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to reconsider his stance on the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill brought for his assent after its passage by the National Assembly.
In refusing to assent the bill, President Buhari cited “too many technical subjects and failure to address them extensively”. He also noted that some aspects of the bill such as surveillance and digital protection, lawful interception of communication, digital protection and retention are currently subject of various bills pending at the National Assembly.
President Buhari also urged the National Assembly to limit the scope of the bill to protection of human rights within the digital environment to reduce the challenge of duplication and legislative conflict in the future.
We are surprised that the president declined assent to this bill, a comprehensive and timely document which conforms to global trends and standards. It is one document which preparation enjoyed the inputs of a wide diversity of stakeholders.
It is difficult to agree with the argument that a bill cannot receive presidential signature because it contains subjects addressed in other bills whose journeys in the legislative processing mill are uncertain.
The refusal of assent by Mr President will send negative signals to the international community on the government’s attitude to freedom of expression and human rights in general as well as its approach to policy-making on issues which are central to building a democracy.
We call on the National Assembly and other stakeholders to remain in support of this bill and engage further with the Presidency so that the bill will return to become law in the near future.