The Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has told the National Assemble (NASS) that the Bill for an Act to repeal the National Information Technology Development Agency Act, No 28 2007 and enact the National Information Technology Development Agency Act is conflicting with the regulatory provisions of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
The Chairman of ALTON, Engr Gbenga Adebayo made the clarification in a letter written to the NASS upon an invitation from the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives on ICT and Cyber Security for a public hearing on the Bill.
In the letter, which was jointly signed by the duo of the Chairman and Head of Administration of ALTON, Mr Gbolahan Awonuga, and made available to the media, said that NITDA is about to be empowered to regulate activities which are already under the purview of the NCC, saying that “the NCC regulates the activities of all telecommunications companies that fall within the purview of digital economy and information technology.”
According to ALTON, the NCC with regards to digital economy is responsible for the monitoring and implementation of the National Broadband Plan (2020 – 2025) and the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy.
Adebayo in the letter stated further that the provisions of Section 6(2) of the Bill, which empowers the NITDA to test and approve the use of information technology infrastructure and services before adoption in Nigeria and Section 20, which clothes it with powers to make regulations and issue licenses and authorisation for operators in the information technology and digital economy sector are already part of the NCC provisions.
In its submission to the NASS, ALTON stated that “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 regards to the use of information technology and digital services, which will conflict with the functions of the NCC.”
It further said that it will also result in double and possibly conflicting regulation for telecommunications companies in Nigeria.
ALTON asked the NASS exclude telecommunication companies from group of persons (“Operators”) who will come under the control and regulation of the Agency with regards to information technology and digital services.
The Association described as additional financial burden the provision of Bill, which demands that telecommunications companies pay a levy of one percent of the profit before tax to an established Fund, which is to be known as the National Information Technology Development Fund for the advancement of the country’s digital economy objectives and related purposes.
ALTON, an organisation of telecoms companies operating in Nigeria also expressed fears over the power by the Bill for NITDA to enter premises, inspect, seize, seal, detain and impose administrative sanctions on erring persons and entities who contravene any provision of the Bill.
According to ALTON, the Bill does not provide for prior warning/notice to be issued to the defaulting person or entity before the Agency exercises the power to enter premises, inspect, seize, seal, detain and impose administrative sanctions on erring persons and entities.
“Our fears are founded on the fact that, Although the Section states that such actions by the Agency are subject to orders of a court of competent jurisdiction, the Bill fails to stipulate whether the Agency is to first seek and obtain orders of court before exercise its powers to sanction defaulting persons or entities or such orders could be obtained after the Agency exercise its powers under the Bill”, the letter said.
The NITDA Director General, Kashifu Inuwa, had presented a proposal for the realignment of the NITDA Act 2007 with the principles of the Nigeria Digital Economy Policy Strategy and Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) to the relevant committees of the National Assembly.
According to him,there is an urgent need for the review of the laws to keep abreast of the accelerating changes within the global IT-driven ecosystem and properly position Nigeria as Africa’s leading digital economy and a major player.
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