Senate Moves To Legalize Electronic Transactions, Criminalize Online Fraud

The Nigerian Senate, on Thursday, began moves to bring the nation’s laws in line with global best practice with consideration of a bill to provide a framework that would legalize all forms of electronic transactions undertaken in the country.
The bill, when passed and signed into law, will also prohibit and criminalize online fraud, and also make it legally possible to admit evidence of electronic transactions between parties in during court proceedings.
Sponsor of the bill, Senator Ibikunle Amosun (APC – Ogun Central), said the online transactions in the United States reached US$3tr in 2014 alone while accounting for over US$10tr in sales of goods and service globally.
According to a statement by Ezrel Tabiowo, Special Assistant (Press) to President of the Senate, Amosun, while explaining the importance of an Act to enable electronic transactions, recalled that the European Union in the year 2000 approved a directive on electronic commerce requiring member-states to implement same.
The United Kingdom, he continued, “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 contracts, and this has resulted in remarkable increase in their business transactions,” he stressed.
The lawmaker, however, lamented that Nigeria’s extant laws provide inadequate protection for e-commerce businesses and consumers in the country.
“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,” Amosun said.
When the bill eventually becomes law, he assured, all challenges arising from jurisdiction and authentication in matters dealing with contracts will be resolved.
“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,” according to him.
“This Bill is aimed to resolve these legal challenges by removing barriers to electronic commerce while validating and effectuating electronic records and signatures,” Amosun explained.
Reeling out the benefits of the bill, the lawmaker said 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 the contract and at the trial of cases in courts.
The bill, which scaled second reading during plenary, was referred by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, to the Committee on Banking, Insurance and Financial Institutions for further legislative work. The Committee, chaired by Senator Uba Sani (APC – Kaduna Central), is expected to submit its report in four weeks.