October 1, 2022

By Ragan M. Conteh
Lawmakers in Sierra Leone have on Thursday, 14th November 2019 rejected the Electronic Information and Transaction bill 2019 tabled in the Well of Parliament by the Deputy Minister of Information and Communications for Parliamentary approval.
The Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, Mamadie Gobeh Kamara in her submission informed Members of Parliament that the bill is to provide for the formal recognition of the legal effects of electronic transaction including electronic signatures, to provide for the admissibility of electronic messages in evidence.
She further informed Parliamentarians that, the bill also provides for the validity or enforceability of contracts executed in electronic form and to provide for other related matters.
The bill, according to the Minister, also provides consumer protection for persons that are engaged in electronic commercial activities for the sale of goods or services and shall enable the recipients of the goods or services to have easy and direct accession to open standard.
The bill also seeks to provide liability of service providers subject to subsection (2) a network service provider which shall not be subjected to any civil or criminal liability in respect of third party materials in the form of an electronic record.
The services provider, according to the 2019 Act, will merely provide access where liability is limited to the making, publication, dissemination or distribution of such materials or any statement made in such or the infringement of any right subsisting in or in relation to such materials.
In his submission, Hon. Abdul Karim Kamara from Kambia stated that Electronic Information and Transaction bill 2019 is a non controversial law but he is concerned about the misuse of the law by politicians who may tend to clampdown on electronic users, especially those using Whatsapp, Facebook and other social medium.
He said in as much as the bill seeks to ensure Sierra Leone joins other countries on electronic and digital laws the concerns around the safety and protection of electronic users in the country should be looked into.
Hon. Munir Turay in his submission said the bill stands to provide the basis for customers using electronic transaction, adding that it is relevant to have such laws that will protect both customers and service providers.
He appealed to Hon. Members of Parliament to approve the bill noting that the bill would stand the test of time as the world has gone digital and no more analogue.
Hon. Turay stated that the bill makes room for the print and electronic evidence purposes, informing that it will also add value to the electronic users.
Hon. Vincent of Constituency 111 stated that the country is faced with a situation where the judiciary is tired with social media and because the laws are not visible, the users of electronic platforms continue to take advantage of their social media platform.
He stated that the law will give the opportunity to everybody to have fair treatment if defamed through electronic platform.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Hassan Sesay, stated that the bill is not clear in terms of penalty and that many other clauses need to be scrutinized during the legislative level and should not be approved.
He pointed out that several players including the National Telecommunications and SLCAB need to be empowered through these laws.
He appealed to the Speaker and Hon. MPs to commit the bill to the Parliamentary Subcommittee on Legislative for proper scrutiny and subsequently final decision to be taken.
Hon. Daniel Koroma in his assertion urged SLCAB, NATCOM and Ministry of Information officials to be part of the scrutiny process for the bill to again be brought to the House for approval.
Many MPs spoke on the need to have deliberations on the bill in other to waive out lacunas in the bill and make it user friendly as well as properly looking at the penalties in the bill through the legislative committee level.
For national interest, the Speaker and all Members of both the opposition and ruling government in Parliament of the house however agreed that the bill be sent to the Parliamentary Subcommittee on Legislation for thorough scrutiny.