AN ANALYSIS OF NIGERIA’S DATA PROTECTION FRAMEWORK IN THE LIGHT OF INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHT STANDARDS ON PRIVACY
The growing rate of concerns centering on widespread corporate data collection and the information asymmetries emanating from these practices continues to rise in a geometric progression. The advancement in information communication technology is dramatically improving the level of real-time communication and information-sharing, hence, through an improvement in the access to information and facilitation of global debate, the fostering of democratic participation has been ensured. By amplifying the voices of Human Right defenders, these technologies have offered the promise of personal interrelationship. Nevertheless, it has become clear that these technologies are vulnerable to electronic surveillances and interceptions which threaten individual rights- including the Rights to privacy.Thus, the presence of rising contentious matters has set Nigeria on its toes, consequently resulting into the introduction of regulations in conformity with data protection. In this vein, this article shall examine the Nigerian data protection framework, provide an analytic insight into its compositions in juxtaposition with the international benchmark and finally draw its last breath in the conclusion, preempting its essentials to the Nigerian economy.
The Nigerian Data Protection Framework: An Analytical Exposition
“Data protection is the legal mechanism that ensures privacy while conceptually distinct from the “right of privacy”, most good data protection regulatory frameworks are similar in the sense that they contain similar principles for collecting, processing and transferring personal data” – JOVAN KURBALIJA (2017)
In Nigeria, regardless of the fact that privacy remains a fundamental human right guaranteed by the Constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria (1999 amended) specifically in Section 37 which provides that “the privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected” as well as a hodgepodge of other industrial frameworks such as BANK VERIFICATION NUMBER for financial services and THE NATIONAL HEALTH ACT for health services; the enactment of a comprehensive data protection regulation lingered. Although Nigeria still lacks a principal data protection law, it however now has a subsidiary data protection legislation. Thus, with more organizations migrating their functionalities online, THE NIGERIAN DATA PROTECTION REGULATION (NDPR) issued by the NATIONAL INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT AGENCY (NITDA) on the 25th of January 2019, by virtue of Section 32 of the NITDA ACT 2007, which states that “NITDA is responsible for making a regulation it deems necessary or expedient for giving full effect to the provisions of the NITDA Act and for effective administration of its provisions” could not have come at a more crucial time.
Privacy in Relation to the International Human Rights Standards: Nigeria data protection regulations as a comparison
At the international level, the right to the protection of one’s privacy especially from intrusion by the state is enshrined in Article 12 of the UNITED NATIONS (UN) UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHT (UDHR) 1948. The need for such standards on the international level exist to create a benchmark for countries of the world; a benchmark which other statutes and framework of necessity have to implement. While the right to privacy under the international human right law is not absolute, any instance of interference must be subject to critical assessment of its legitimacy and proportionality. This is exemplified in the provisions of the INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS ratified by 167 Member-states of the UN. Some legal frameworks have also attempted to set out what conditions under which personal data may be collected. For instance, the GENERAL DATA PROTECTION REGULATIONS (GDPR) which came into force on 25th of May 2018 applies across members of the European Union (EU). At the African regional level, the AU convention on Cybersecurity & Data protection (2014) and the ECONOMIC COMMUNITY OF WEST AFRICAN STATES (ECOWAS) Data Protection Act (2010) both seeks inter alia, to provide a framework for data protection among member states including Nigeria.
The impressive standards encapsulated in these frameworks have influenced the Nigerian govt to provide a framework which reflects the international standards, thus bringing to life the introduction of the NDPR which states its objectives and scope in Section 1 & 2 respectively. The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) statutorily mandated by the NITDA Act 2007 is to inter alia; develop regulations for electronic data interexchange and other forms of electronic communication transactions as an alternative to the paper-based methods in govt, commerce, education, the Private & Public sectors, labour and other fields where the use of electronic communications may improve the exchange of data and information, recognizing that many public and private bodies have migrated their respective businesses and other information system online.
Information solutions in both the private and public sectors now drive service delivery in the country through digital systems. This information has thus become critical information infrastructure which must be safeguarded, regulated and protected against atrocious breaches, bearing cognizance of emerging data protection regulations within the international community geared towards security of lives & property and fostering the integrity of commerce and industry in the volatile data economy. Conscious of the contributions of stakeholders on the issue of privacy and protection of personal data and upon evaluation of the grave challenges of leaving personal data processing unregulated, the NITDA therefore issued the Nigerian Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) which is fully in force as of date.
The need for data protection and privacy still occupies an important place in municipal and international chambers. Each year the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners brings together the highest authorities and institutions guaranteeing data protection and privacy, as well as experts in the field from every continent. It is clear & perfectly undeniable that the need for the protection of the citizens in consonance with data information can not be underplayed. Thus, by setting international frameworks as its pilot, the NITDA has charted this course through the NDPR towards the protection of citizen’s data and the embalmment of Human Rights.
1. United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (2014). The Right to Privacy in the Digital Age.
2. Jovan Kurbalija (2017). An introduction to internet governance. Retrieved from http://www.diplomcay.edu/resources/books/introduction-governance.p211
3. The Nigerian Data Protection Regulation 2019
4. Florence Bola-Balogun. Implementing the 2019 Nigeria Data Protection Regulations: An overview of the draft implementation framework
Ucheakonam Chijioke Joshua is a final year student of Obafemi Awolowo University. His interest lies in Medical law, Criminal and International Law. He is a writer & a lover of Art works.