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NITDA BILL : Stakeholders Urge Agency to Focus on Developmental Functions



CEO, ICT Derivatives, Mr. Ayoola Oke; Managing Partner, Classicus LP Solicitors & Advocates, Mr. Olusola Akinyemi; Managing Partner, Crimson Partners Attorneys & Legislative Consultants, Ben Nwaroh; Lead Executive, Policy Implementation Assisted Forum and Editor, Business Metrics Nigeria,Omobayo Azeez; CEO, Jidaw Systems Limited, Jide Awe; and Kenneth Erikume, Policy Analyst, PwC Nigeria.

Stakeholders in the ICT industry have urged the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to focus on its developmental agenda and not delve into the functions of other agencies.

They gave the advice during a national dialogue organised by Business Metrics on the pending 2021 NITDA Bill, on Thursday in Lagos. The event was the fifth edition of the Policy Implementation Assisted Forum (PIAFO) of Business Metrics.

Mr Ayoola Oke, the Chief Executive Officer of ICT Derivatives Ltd., said the old NITDA Bill had a central purpose to facilitate adoption of ICT throughout the nation in private and public sector, and consequently support its infrastructure and connectivity.

Oke said that however, the new bill now had a heavy presence of regulatory functions which raises the question of if NITDA wanted to continue as a developmental or a regulatory agency.

NITDA Act: Stakeholders Urge Agency to Focus on Developmental Functions

Mr. Ayoola Oke

He said the agency’s primary function was to focus on developing business, talents and job creation, noting that there were agencies already carrying out regulatory functions in the ICT industry.

“Adding regulatory functions to its agenda would only lead to duplicating existing laws and policies,” Oke said.

Mr Jide Awe, the Chief Executive Officer at Jidaw Systems Ltd., on the other hand said that NITDA Bill expectations were critical to the sustainability of Nigeria’s digital economy drive.

He said that NITDA’s aim was to create jobs, increase economic growth, and improve the quality of life for citizens.

Awe said that digital economy had grown, and growth factors require attention.

He said that sustainability of Nigeria’s digital economy drive was crucial as it was a key driver of innovation and sustainable development.

Awe said, “Developments, regulatory interests, sustainability issues, and challenges must be considered.

“We need to understand that disruption and innovation demand different approaches,” he said.

Also, Peculiar Showale, Executive Assistant at Paradigm initiative, said that a sector by sector review of the bill by the Senate and House Committee on ICT made the bill appear to be an attempt to unnecessarily duplicate regulatory powers of some existing government agencies.

She said that while the NITDA Bill seeks to promote and regulate the development of the Nigerian technology sector, its implementation could potentially create regulatory and compliance hurdles for businesses in the digital economy space.

Showale said that this could potentially be discouraging to new entrants, leading to a slowdown in the industry’s growth.

In his opening remarks,  Omobayo Azeez , Lead Executive at PIAFO, said that keen interest had followed issues around the proposed NITDA Bill 2021, which seeks to repeal and re-enact the NITDA Act 2007 that established the agency.

According to Azeez, the bill, which is now pending at the National Assembly, is  aimed at creating a regulatory framework for the development of the Nigerian IT sector and digital economy.

NITDA Act: Stakeholders Urge Agency to Focus on Developmental Functions

Omobayo Azeez

He said: “While this on its own may not be a bad thing, there are fears that if the bill is passed the way it is, it may exert negative ripples on the ICT sector.

“There is no doubt that NITDA has been a major contributor to the Nigeria ICT development alongside other agencies of the government under the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, and beyond.

“However, the dusts raised around its pending bill could not be ignored in the interest of Nigeria’s growing ICT sector and the country’s fast-pacing digital economy drive,” he said.

The News Agency Nigeria (NAN) reports that in August 2021, the NITDA Bill, which proposes to repeal and amend the extant NITDA Act, was released.

A review of the NITDA Bill revealed that there were a number of proposed  significant changes to be introduced to the current regulatory landscape of the information technology industry and the digital economy.

The NITDA Bill seeks to introduce a licensing regime for operators in the Information Technology Industry and Digital Economy.

The bill will empower the agency to issue regulations that provide for licensing and authorisation criteria including renewal, suspension, and revocation conditions,  to promote free market operation and competition, among other things.

Source: NAN

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