The Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), the umbrella body for all Information Technology (IT) professionals in Nigeria, has called on members of the National Assembly to drop the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Bill that has passed the first reading on the floor of the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives on ICT and Cyber Security.
The bill seeks to enact an Act that will empower NITDA to provide for the administration, implementation and regulation of Information Technology Systems and Practice in Nigeria, which will automatically convert NITDA from a development agency to regulatory agency in a sector where there is an existing regulator.
NCS’ call compliments other calls from industry players like Computer Professionals (Registration Council) of Nigeria (CPN), the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) and Paradigm Initiative, who are worried over the current draft of NITDA Repeal and Re-Enactment Bill 2021, which seeks to convert NITDA from a development agency to a regulatory agency.
NCS President, Prof. Adesina Sodiya, who made the call at a press conference in Lagos said the national assembly members should not hesitate to drop the bill because it is an affront on industry stakeholders, since it did not take into cognisance, the contributions of industry stakeholders who made contributions to the bill during a stakeholders’ meeting organised by NITDA.
“Industry stakeholders were invited to a meeting and we attended and made valid inputs, but none of the inputs were captured in the document sent the National Assembly. Again, we were giving very short notice to attend a public hearing on NITDA’s bill and the public hearing was fixed at a period when Nigerians, including members of the National Assembly were preparing to go on Christmas break. There are indications that NITDA must be trying to cover up some things that we do not know, hence it is in a hurry to submit the bill for quick assent. National Assembly members should ask for stakeholders’ input before discussing the bill further and if there are no inputs from stakeholders, National Assembly should not waste further time in dropping the bill,” Sodiya said.
Aside neglecting the inputs of stakeholders, the bill will infringe on the ACT that sets up CPN and also infringe on the activities and programmes of most government agencies, Sodiya further said.
In the draft NITDA’s Bill, Section 1 stated the objectives of the bill, and explained that the purpose was to create an effective, impartial, and independent regulatory framework for the development of the Nigerian information technology sector and digital economy, but the review from industry players explains that the section lays the foundation of converting NITDA from an IT Development Agency to a regulatory agency. The review further said the inclusion of the concept of ‘Digital Economy’ as part of its regulatory purview expands NITDA’s frontiers to matters within the exclusive regulatory mandate of the NCC, and will impact on the functions of the Nigerian Communications Commission in Section 4 of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003, that empowers the NCC to regulate communications services that drive the digital economy.