CWAI calls for passage of NITDA Bill, says it will transform telecom, ICT sector

The Citizens Watch Advocacy Initiative (CWAI), a civil society organization that champions accountability, has called for the passage of NITDA Bill.

The CSO said if the bill is passed, it would have enormous positive impact to the telecommunication and ICT industry in Nigeria.

Noting that it would ultimately lead to increase in the confidence of both local and international investors in the telecom and ICT sector of the Nigerian economy.

CWAI in a statement signed by its Executive Secretary Omoba Kenneth Aigbegbele, noted that from their investigation, “the Bill will empower NITDA to provide for the administration, implementation and regulation of information technology systems and practice in Nigeria, which will automatically transform NITDA from a mere development agency to a regulatory agency in the sector that needs all the support, cooperation of Nigerians and stakeholders.”

The group also said as it will ultimately lead to increase in the confidence of both local and international investors in the telecom and ICT sector of the Nigerian economy, thereby transforming the development agency to a regulator which will enhance the activities of other sectors concerned like the banking, financial services, insurance, healthcare, commerce education, agriculture, telecommunications, etc.

He counters the argument that the Bill was meant to usurp the powers of other regulators and make NITDA a super regulator in the ICT industry.
The statement read in part: “The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) established by the NITDA Act of 2007 to regulate standards, guidelines and frameworks for the development and standardization of Information Technology practices in Nigeria, is also clamouring for the actualization of the Bill at the National Assembly for the last five years (since 2021).

“The NITDA Bill, first proposed in 2021, seeks to repeal the National Information Technology Development Act No. 28 of 2007, and enact the National Information Technology Development Agency Act.

“The amendments in the proposal include provisions for new license categorizations, licensing fees, 1% profit-before-tax levies for companies with revenues higher than 100 million naira, and prison sentences for defaulting parties.

“In 2022, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) considered the Bill and moved a step further for its entry to the National Assembly. On December 23, 2022, at the National Assembly, a public hearing was held where stakeholders in Nigeria’s technology ecosystem weighed in on the Bill.

“Since its announcement that year, the Bill has generated a healthy amount of controversy surrounding its purpose and compatibility with other technology-related bills, most notably the recently proposed startup bill.

“Among the various submissions at the National Assembly are that Section 6(a) of the existing Act provides that NITDA is both a development and regulatory agency in the ICT sector.

“However, the argument that NITDA is not a regulator was noted to be incorrect, and a total of thirty-one (31) stakeholders made submissions and presentations on the Bill. But out of this number, seventeen (17) were in support of the Bill, while fourteen (14) were opposed to it.

“Those in favour based their support on the reason that the Bill provided for the development of the measures that would adequately regulate digital infrastructure, fast-track Nigeria’s transition into a leading digital economy, foster innovation and creativity, empower businesses in the country, improve the process of issuing and authenticating good character certificates and promote the use of technology in education and other sectors.

“The Committee recommended to the Senate that the Bill be passed after considering the comments and opinions of stakeholders therein. The Bill states that the Senate Committee on ICT and Cyber Security was referred to as “A Bill for an Act to Repeal the National Information Technology Development Agency Act No. 28, 2007 and Enact the National Information Technology Development Agency Act to provide the Administration, Implementation and Regulation of Information Technology Systems and Practices, as well as the Digital Economy in Nigeria and for Related Matters, 2023 (SB1082), having considered the same, report favourably thereon recommended that the Senate pass the Bill as amended,” as stated in the Committee’s report during the second reading.

“There was no time that the Bill was meant to usurp the powers of other regulators and make NITDA a super regulator in the ICT industry. A lot of stakeholders also said the Bill has the potential to reverse the gains delivered and made in the digital economy already. However, some stakeholders, on the other hand, agreed that the Bill has a lot of merit and that it would sanitize the industry and bridge the knowledge gap between Nigeria and other developed nations in digital economy.

“The role of NITDA under the proposed Act would have no direct conflicts with other regulators in the industry as being canvassed by naysayers. Accordingly, NITDA 2022 Bill will stabilize the regulatory environment in the telecom sector in Nigeria and attract the much needed foreign direct investments as well as domestic investments in the telecom and ICT sector in the country.

“It is the first of its kind in the annals of history that will bridge the digital knowledge base of the country and impact the growth of the sector holistically in all spheres. The statement further added that the essence and purpose of the Bill is to create an effective, impartial, and independent regulatory framework for the development of the Nigerian information technology sector and digital economy.

“Having been convinced about the proactive essence of the Bill, CWAI categorically states that the proposed NITDA Bill is focused on tax startups and in Part VI, Section 16, the Bill provides for the creation of the NITDA Fund, which will be used holistically for the “advancement of digital economy and related purposes,” and nothing more.

“CWAI also notes that the skills deficit in human capital that hinders the country from thriving in the global digital economy would be overcome once and for all, as well as this would raise global digital competence in the country in the future, thereby expanding the service sector.

“In view of this, CWAI enjoins the tech-ecosystem and techpreneurs to raise their voices and join the clarion call for all hands to be on deck for Nigeria to be able to achieve a large value chain that facilitates youth engagement, entrepreneurship development, the MSME development and women empowerment; which will provide and empower a rich, vibrant local industry of digital training providers with globally recognized standards attainable that can best compete anywhere. Therefore, recognizing and giving NITDA the required stakeholders’ support and engagement to drive this new initiative that will make the actualization of the Bill possible and acceptable to all.

“CWAI therefore recognizes that NITDA has consistently driven an information technology policy that is geared towards the enhancement of Nigeria’s global acceptability and certification in the digital economy, where the country’s local, foreign partners and stakeholders are carried along in an effective, efficient and affordable value chain for the growth of the ICT sector and the telecom industry, creating and empowering Nigeria’s digital potentials and creating jobs for millions of youths in the country and the economic diversification for emerging technologies.

“CWAI is holistically in support of NITDA’s drive, innovation, and ideas in the formulation of digital policies that will put Nigeria on the global arena and marketplace of the future. CWAI, therefore, advocates for NITDA’s regulatory status so as to accelerate other growing sectors of the economy.”