CEM REPORT, TELECOMMUNICATION | Telecommunications Operators in the country have called on the presidency to reject assent to the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) bill saving for the exclusion of the telecommunications sector from the bill
The operators say the inclusion of telcos in the regulation by the NITDA would amount to multiple regulations as they are currently being regulated by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
Telcos under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), stated that most of the regulatory functions being ascribed to NITDA in the new Bill were duplicating NCC’s roles.
The objection to the bill was stated in a document signed by A Chairman and Head of Operations, Gbenga Adebayo and Gbolahan Awonuga respectively, addressed to the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives on ICT and Cyber Security.
During the public hearing of the bill, ALTON stressed that the legislation would create serious chaos in the sector and rub it off immense contributions to the economy.
“If the Bill is passed as presently constituted, there is the risk that the Agency, acting properly under the Bill may issue regulations, guidelines, and standards with regard to the use of information technology and digital services, which will conflict with the functions of the NCC. It will also result in double and possibly conflicting regulations for telecommunications companies in Nigeria.
“In this circumstance, we humbly request that since telecommunications are already being regulated by the NCC with regards to information technology and digital services, the Distinguished Members of the Committee have telecommunication companies excluded from the group of person operators who will come under the control and regulation of the Agency with regards to information technology and digital services.”
A controversial section in the bill (Section 33) is the definition of digital economy which the body says is in direct conflict with the responsibilities of the NCC.
The Section provides that “Digital Economy” is defined to mean “any aspect of the Nigerian Economy that is based or driven by digital technologies,” while “Information Technology” is defined to include “all forms of technology used to create, store, exchange and use information in its various forms (business data, voice, conversation, still images, motion pictures, multimedia presentations and other forms including those not yet conceived.
Meanwhile, Section 6(1) and (12) of the Bill, provides that the NITDA is empowered to “implement all government policies on information technology and digital economy,” and “issue and renew licenses and authorisations for the provision of information technology and digital services,”
They noted that the NCC regulates the activities of all telecommunications companies that fall within the purview of the digital economy and information technology.
The body added that “the NCC with regard to the digital economy is responsible for the monitoring and implementation of the National Broadband Plan (2020 – 2025) and the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy.
“Closely related to the above are the provisions of Section 6(2) of the Bill, which empowers the Agency to test and approve the use of information technology infrastructure and services before adoption in Nigeria and Section 20, which clothes the Agency with powers to make regulations and issue licenses and authorization for operators in the information technology and digital economy sector.”
“Distinguished Members of the Senate Committee ICT and Cyber Security, going by the foregoing, it is apparent that the Agency is being empowered to regulate activities that are already under the purview of the Nigerian Communications Commission (“NCC”).”
Meanwhile, stakeholders in the entire information and communications technology (ICT) industry have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to be wary of assenting to controversial bills before May 29 handover.