A bill designed to increase the powers of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has been causing controversy in the Nigerian ICT sector.
While some stakeholders have condemned the bill for attempting to arrogate the powers of other government agencies to NITDA, there have also been concerns that the bill, if passed, would lead to multiple regulations for telecom operators and other providers. services in the ICT sector. .
It is also feared that the bill will worsen the current multi-tax regime in the telecom industry, as it empowers NITDA to also levy and tax all service providers in the ICT ecosystem, including startups. .
Despite these concerns, on December 23, 2022, the Senate and House Cyber Security and ICT Committees held a public hearing on the bill.
However, the public hearing was stalled due to the absence of the main sponsors of the bill, the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami, and the Director General of NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa.
By Wednesday, January 4, the controversial bill had trended on Twitter with the hashtag RejectNITDAbill ranking high among the trending topics in the country’s Twitter space.
Naiarametrics takes a look at some of the provisions in these bills that stakeholders are raising eyebrows about:
1 Section 6 (1)
Sections 6 of the bill establishes the powers of NITDA and subsection 1 establishes that the Agency shall have powers to:
- “Implement all government policies on information technology and digital economy”
This is seen as an attempt to usurp the powers of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which is mandated under the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA 2003) to prepare and implement programs and plans that promote and ensure the development of the communications industry and communication service arrangements in Nigeria.
2. Section 6 (2)
Subsection 2 of the same article 6 establishes that the NITDA under the new bill will have the power to:
- “Testing and approving the use of information technology infrastructure and services prior to their adoption in Nigeria.”
This is replicating the power of the NCC to “perform type approval tests on communication equipment and issue certificates based on technical specifications and standards periodically prescribed by the Commission” as stipulated by the NCA 2003.
3. Section 15
While the NITDA Act 2007 also provides for the establishment of the National Information Technology Development Fund, to be financed through a 1% levy on the pre-tax profits of Nigerian companies with an annual turnover of N100 ,000,000 and more, stakeholders are raising a red flag over the provision in Section 15 of the new bill that puts the control fund under the control of the Director General of NITDA.
Section 15 of the bill states:
- “The Director General of the Agency shall keep adequate records of the sources and use of the Fund’s monies and assets and shall render accounts to the Minister, at least once in a fiscal year.”
4. Section 20
Stakeholders are concerned that this section of the bill will worsen the current problem of multipolar regulations in the ICT sector and discourage investors as multiple government agencies will regulate and license the same set of companies. This section of the bill empowers NITDA to issue licenses to all companies in the ICT sector.
- “The Agency, through Regulations, will issue the licenses and authorizations for operators in the information technology and digital economy sector, and said regulation will establish the licensing and authorization criteria, including the conditions for renewal, suspension and revocation to promote the free operation of market and competition, among others.”
5. Section 21
Section 21 of the bill goes further in specifying the categories of companies that will be licensed by NITDA and did not mince words in stating that this will cover all companies operating in the ICT sector, including those that have obtained the NCC license.
Section 21 of the bill states:
- “The Agency will classify its licenses and authorizations under any of the following: (1) Product License (2) Service Provider License (3) Platform Provider License.”
With the National Assembly suspending the public hearing on the bill, it is expected that concerns from stakeholders, which include members of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) and the Board of Registration of Professionals of the Computing of Nigeria (CPN), among others, will be put into consideration before the bill becomes law.