The National Assembly Joint Committee on ICT and Cyber Security recently suspended a public hearing on the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA Bill 2021, when it was unable to form a quorum.
Since the adjournment of the hearing, various industry stakeholders and critical observers have described the development as an attempt to thwart the bill knowing the imperatives of the digital economy on national growth and development.
Remarkably, it was immediately followed by a series of deliberately orchestrated, biased and uninformed criticisms not only of the NITDA bill but also from Professor Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy. Most of the vague bids hinged on the misconstrued assumption that the bill would nullify the independence of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in his tenure.
After critically studying the NITDA Bill 2021 and the NCC Bill 2003, 2007, I venture to state that there is absolutely no basis for such reasoning or belief, except of course that the intent of the critics is to pursue a sinister agenda. . While lounge critics have tried to hide the facts in plain sight, the recurring question that they have failed to convincingly and empirically address remains: where is the mandate conflict between NITDA and NCC?
The facts are obvious in the history of the NCC and NITDA laws.
The NCC’s mandate and authority derive from the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 (NCA 2003), which was signed into law, after being passed by both Houses of the National Assembly, by President Olusegun Obasanjo on 8 July 2003.
The NCA 2003 applies to the supply and use of all telecommunications networks and services, in whole or in part, within Nigeria or on Nigerian registered ships or aircraft. (see fact on NCC website via this link: https://ncc.gov.ng/accessible/licensing-regulation/legal/nca-2003)
The laws that guide and allow the operations of the Commission include: the NCC decree of November 75, 1992, the National Telecommunications Policy (NTP) of 2000 (new under revision), the Wireless Telegraphy Law of 1990 and the Communications Law of Nigeria, 2003.
The main mandates of the Nigerian Communications Commission – NCA 2003 include facilitating telecom investment and market entry, protecting the rights and interests of service providers and consumers; Manage, monitor and use the scarce national telecommunications resources and ensure quality and efficient telecommunications services and advise the Minister on policy formulation and other matters.
In a nutshell, it can be understood that the key role of NCC is to regulate and supervise the telecommunication industry in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, NITDA was mandated by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo through the perfection of a bill designed to provide for the establishment of the National Information Technology Development in 2007 (NITDA Act). NITDA’s operations began in 2001, six years before the bill was passed.
Therefore, NITDA is mandated by its Act to establish standards, guidelines and frameworks for the development, standardization and regulation of information technology practices in Nigeria. Therefore, the agency is empowered to operate and implement the national IT policy; ensure that all citizens are empowered with information technology through the development of a critical mass of IT-competent and globally competitive workforce; enter into a strategic alliance with the private sector as well as with international organizations to update the IT vision; develop and regulate the information technology sector in Nigeria; create IT awareness and ensure universal access to promote IT diffusion in all sectors of our national life; and ensure simple, moral, accountable, responsive and transparent (SMART) governance, using the tool of information technology.
In addition, NITDA is empowered by law to encourage local production and manufacturing of IT components on a competitive basis in order to generate income abroad and create jobs; serve as the clearinghouse for all IT procurement and services in the public sector and empower Nigerians to participate in the development of IT software and systems.
Since its establishment, NITDA has provided the legal framework for information technology and has pioneered development projects in the areas of capacity building, provision of access to information technology goods and services, bridging digital divides, boosting of digital literacy, as well as job creation and national security (see fact on the NITDA website: https://nitda.gov.ng/nitda-act/).
Why NITDA Bill 2021?
On October 23, 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the redesignation of the Federal Ministry of Communications as the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.
The main purpose of the new appointment was to create a policy body that would oversee the development of the digital economy for Nigeria.
The Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy has developed the Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), which focuses on developing the digital aspects of the Nigerian economy, thus creating the need for a review of the regulatory framework.
The Nigerian National Policy on Information Technology was passed in 2001 with a vision of making Nigeria an IT-capable country by 2005. However, we have long since surpassed that vision as Nigeria is now more than just a country. IT capable. The NDEPS has a new vision of making Nigeria a leading global digital economy. NITDA’s current mandate focuses on the initial IT policy vision. NITDA needs a new mandate to refocus its development and regulatory mandate for competitiveness in the $12 trillion global digital economy.
Therefore, it is necessary to review the mandate of the Agency in accordance with the current realities in the cyber and technological space. Additionally, NDEPS requires a stronger approach to developing regulations, standards and guidelines for the country, with a focus on digital and emerging technologies, and NITDA is best suited to implement this mandate.
It is against this background that the Agency seeks to repeal and re-enact the NITDA Establishment Act to improve regulatory space and encourage Nigerians to reap the benefits of the digital economy while supporting the development of indigenous solutions for the economic benefit of the country. .
NDEPS is set to develop the digital economy through 8 distinct pillars including development regulation, digital literacy and skills, strong infrastructure, service infrastructure, development and promotion of digital services, soft infrastructure, digital society and emerging technologies and development and adoption of indigenous content.
The NITDA Act is one of the main instruments to implement the 8 key pillars of NDEPS mentioned above.
Where is the mandate clash?
The bill seeks to consolidate the Agency’s regulatory power to include emerging technologies and the development of the digital economy; grant administrative powers of execution; reduce the number of members of the agency’s board of directors and adequately develop regulation in aspects of ICT and Digital Economy.
If passed, the bill will deepen efforts to close the digital divide and digital engagement and facilitate investment in the digital economy, innovative entrepreneurship, and emerging technologies.
From the above analyses, it can be seen that the anticipatory act will go a long way in building platforms for local and global collaboration in the sector and enable the development of indigenous content to serve local and international markets.
Without an iota of doubt, the NITDA 2021 bill does not conflict with or usurp the power of any other government agency. For example, while NCC’s powers are largely concentrated in the telecommunications sector, NITDA’s duties focus on information technology.
On this basis, lawmakers arguably owe Nigeria a patriotic duty to support the NITDA Bill, which is geared towards ensuring Nigeria takes advantage of the ever-evolving multi-trillion dollar digital and ICT economy. At the end of the day, its benefits would be felt positively not only in the tech ecosystem, but also in Nigerians who are leveraging technology for a living with their mobile and other digital devices.
TechDigest Staff Writer Mr. Badmus writes from Abuja.