The National Information Technology Development Agency was established in 2007 by the NITDA Law with the main objective of using information and communication technologies (ICT) as a tool in tertiary institutions to promote the mechanism of the education sector in the country.
As the federal government agency responsible for the development of information technology in Nigeria, NITDA is empowered by its Enabling Act to create a framework for the planning, research, development, standardization, application, coordination, monitoring, evaluation and regulation of information technology. information technology practices. , activities and systems in Nigeria.
Since early 2022, there has been a bill to revise the NITDA Act 2007. However, this NITDA (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill 2022 has attracted opposition from other ICT regulators and ICT stakeholders. the industry for its general acquisition of power to regulate the entire ICT ecosystem to the detriment of other regulators whose powers are being usurped.
ICT regulators such as the Computer Professionals (Registration Council of Nigeria) (CPN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) are of the opinion that the NITDA bill, if amended, would conflict with its regulatory powers. Legal experts have also considered asking NITDA to reconcile the bill with the regulatory roles of CPN and NCC, as well as the punitive fines it intends to impose on industry operators through the bill.
Last week, there was an underground move by the Senate-House Joint Committee on Information and Communications Technology, or ICT, to pass the controversial NITDA bill. This has drawn harsh responses from the industry.
The public hearing is on “A bill to repeal the National Information Technology Development Agency Act No. 28, 2007 and enact the NITDA Act to provide for the Administration, Implementation and Regulation of Information Technology Systems and Practices of Information as well as Digital Economy in Nigeria and related matters, 2022”.
The controversy began after an invitation to a public hearing, jointly signed by the Secretaries of the ICT and Cybersecurity Commission of the Senate; and ICT Commission of the House of Representatives, Ayo Ogon and Abosi Lolo, respectively, and published in a newspaper on Thursday, December 22, 2022, set the hearing for Friday, December 23, 2022, one day after both Houses of the National Assembly went into recess, signaling the Committee’s desperation to pass the controversial bill to favor NITDA and cause disruption to the entire ICT sector in Nigeria.
While it was suspected that the Committee wanted to pass the bill without substantial public input, it was also alleged that industry stakeholder submissions made during its first public hearing were scrapped and that the current invitation may be the last curtain. of smoke to pass the controversial bill.
There were also allegations that the Committee did not formally invite key stakeholders out of fear that the process to force the removal of the bill on industry could be thwarted, so the Joint Committee took advantage of a rushed public notice, issued within hours before the public hearing.
According to the NCC, Section 1 (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f) and (g) of the NITDA bill will affect the NCC’s functions in Section 4 of the Nigerian Communications Act of 2003 to regulate the communications services that drive the digital economy.
Section 2 of the NIDTA Bill 2021 “is an attempt to replicate the provisions of Section 2 of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 which states: “This Act applies to the provision and use of all services and networks communications in whole or in part within Nigeria or on a Nigerian registered ship or aircraft”.
NCC asserted that Section 9(d), (e), (h), (i), (l), (p), (s), (v), (w) is a reflection of the provisions of Section 4(1)(h) of the NCA 2003 and “this section will create a regulatory overlay for matters related to standard setting for communications services in Nigeria.” It found loopholes in Section 10(c) and Section 16 of the bill, stating that if NITDA becomes a regulatory agency and issues licenses for ‘digital services’ and ‘digital economy’ across all sectors of the Nigerian economy, “This will lead to the imposition of license fees and the creation of an additional burden on existing Commission licensees.”
NCC also asked NITDA to amend its Section 26 (which is copied from Section 23 of the NCA 2003) and Section 28(l) to comply with the provisions of CAMA and Section 33, whose “definitions” will create conflicts in the most sectors. of the Nigerian economy.
According to a source from the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Companies (ALTON), attempting to push through this bill will amount to creating a giant that will erode the profits made by the industry for many years.
There was another allegation that the joint committee, in the undue rush to pass the flawed bill, had thrown out all submissions made by members of the public and interested parties during the first hearing in which it vehemently opposed the bill. law.
For his part, the Chairman of Computer Professionals (Nigerian Registration Board), Mr. Kole Jagun, stated earlier this year that “the NITDA 2021 Bill vests powers from various other regulatory agencies to NITDA, which is an infringement of the legal powers of other government agencies such as NPC, National Communications Commission (NCC), Galaxy Backbone, Office of National Security Advisor (ONSA), National Universities Commission (NUC), etc. that existed before NITDA, and that have been performing their statutory functions.
“For example, sections 6, 13, 20, 21 and 22, which talked about the power of NITDA, licenses and authorizations, offenses and sanctions, among others, raised some pertinent questions. Section 6 vested new powers in the NITDA, including the ability to set license fees and authorizations, collect fees and fines, and issue notices of violation and noncompliance with the Act.”
Jagun stated that all offending sections of the proposed NITDA bill, which give NITDA powers to perform the functions of other agencies, must be removed. One of the stakeholder positions was that instead of preserving and promoting NITDA’s mandate as a statutory ICT development agency, they decided to create an agency with responsibilities similar to some of the existing regulatory agencies in Nigeria.
All well-meaning Nigerians and all stakeholders in the ICT industry should know that if this NITDA Bill is imposed on the ICT industry, it will reverse the gains recorded in the ICT and Telecom sector in the past. last 22 years.
It should be remembered that in the second quarter of 2022, the ICT sector, in addition to digital services, contributed 18.44% of GDP. This is unprecedented, but painfully one of the achievements that the passage of the infamous bill will reverse.
The deregulation of the telecommunications industry in 2001 and the separation of powers of the NCC, CPN, NITDA and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has enabled rapid growth of the different sectors of the ICT ecosystem.
Through the NCC’s diligent implementation of policies, vision plans, and strategic regulatory frameworks, in collaboration with relevant industry stakeholders, there is greater access to digital services and the media industry is being shaped. in terms of information diffusion patterns across multiple platforms while The digital revolution has revealed a new perspective of research areas for scholars in the field of mass communication.
Today, active telecom subscribers have grown significantly to 212.2 million from approximately 400,000 phone lines added in the country in 2000, on the eve of liberalization. This represents a teledensity of 111 percent. Basic Internet subscriptions grew from zero to 152.7 million now, while broadband subscriptions exceed 86 million, representing a penetration of 45.09% as of July 2022.
The industry has also become a major contributor to our national economy with the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry contributing 18.94 percent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as of the second quarter of 2022, according to the latest data published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Of this, the telecommunications sector alone contributed 15 percent of GDP.
The contribution of ICTs to GDP is by far the second largest contributor to the national economy, apart from the agricultural sector. From an investment of less than $500 million in 2001, the investment profile in the nation’s telecommunications sector has also exceeded $70 billion. The telecommunication sector has also created direct and indirect jobs for millions of Nigerians to date.