By Henry Umoru
ABUJA- THE move to legalise Electronic form for conducting transactions in Nigeria and criminalize online fraud, yesterday got a boost as a Bill to this effect scaled second reading in the Senate.
A Bill for an Act to facilitate the use of Information in Electronic form for conducting Transactions in Nigeria and for connected purposes, 2029( SB.155) sponsored by Senator
Ibikunle Amosun, All Progressives Congress, APC, Ogun Central, said that the online transactions in the United States reached three trillion dollars in 2014 alone.
The Bill was referred to the Senator Sani Uba, APC, Kaduna Central led Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial institutions to work with the Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, APC, Ekiti Central led Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.
In his lead debate, Senator Amosun explained that the bill, if passed and signed into law, would prohibit and criminalize online fraud, and also make it legally possible to admit evidence of electronic transactions between parties in court during proceedings.
He said that online transactions account for well over ten trillion dollars in sales of goods and service globally.
Explaining the importance of enacting the necessary regime for electronic transaction in Nigeria, Senator Amosun who noted that the European Union in the year 2000 approved a directive on electronic commerce which required member-states to implement same, said, “The United Kingdom passed the Electronic Communication Act 2000. Even our African neighbour, South Africa passed the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, 25 of 2002.
“All the developed countries, including Malaysia, China, India, Brazil, Singapore, Japan, etc. have laws on electronic contract, and this has resulted into remarkable increase in their business transactions.
Amosun who amented that Nigeria’s extant laws provide inadequate protection for e-commerce businesses and consumers in the country, said, “Every day, we are involved in electronic contracting, either through the use of the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) to transact business or when we book our flight tickets online.
“These electronic transactions, which are the ones we can manage now, are not covered by our legal regime.
“How can we now talk of contracts running into billions of dollars between two machines programmed to process sales and purchase orders? Such complex transactions cannot be contemplated in our present circumstances.
“Yet, if we must tap into the global market, we must move with the trend of the market, we must move with time and have in place a legal framework that will deal with issues such as this.”
He said that when the bill eventually becomes law, all challenges arising from jurisdiction and authentication in matters dealing wit contracts will be accordingly resolved, adding, “How can the contract be authenticated? How do we guarantee the integrity, non-repudiation, confidentiality, writing and signature within the electronic commerce environment?
“All these issues need to be resolved by legislation to boost our economy, encourage foreign investment and ease transactions.
“This Bill is aim to resolve these legal challenges by removing barriers to electronic commerce, while validating and effectuating electronic records and signatures.”
On the benefits of the bill, Amosun stressed that the piece of legislation when enacted, will among others, provide legal assistance to the consumers on their rights and legal remedies to all those who may be short-changed in electronic transactions.
He stated that it would also specifically provide for the prohibition and punishment of electronic crimes and fraud; and facilitate the use of all electronically generated information in the court of law for all civil transactions and validate the use of such information in contract and at the trial of cases in courts.