In a proactive move aimed at safeguarding the data of students in Nigerian universities, the Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (CVCNU) has initiated discussions with the Nigeria Data Protection Commission (NDPC) to establish a partnership for capacity-building among vice-chancellors (VCs) and data officers within universities.
During a courtesy visit to the national commissioner of NDPC, Dr. Vincent Olatunji on Monday, September 11, 2023, the secretary-general of CVCNU, Prof. Yakubu Ochefu emphasised the need for capacity-building on data protection for senior university officers. He expressed his satisfaction with the Nigeria Data Protection Act 2023 and stressed the importance of ensuring its proper implementation within Nigerian universities.
“The fact that the act is coming at this point in time, these are things that as a nation, we should have done years ago,” Ochefu remarked, “and if Nigerian universities are going to do things right, then they have to take their rightful place as far as implementing the Act is concerned. This is a very important agency that we need to engage with, and we need to see how we can work together to help build the capacity of the universities to ensure that we are doing the right thing”.
Highlighting the multifaceted roles of vice-chancellors in universities, Ochefu revealed that they now hold the additional responsibility of Chief Data Protection Officers for their respective institutions.
“There are 264 universities with vice-chancellors who now have a new cap to be chief data protection officers of the universities they lead,” he explained. “The average VC wears four caps in the university. They serve as the chief accounting officer, executive officer, academic officer and security officer. I told them that they have a new cap, which is now [that of] the chief data officer of their university. The VCs immediately saw the value of data protection from the way forms are designed in the universities, handling personal information, posting results on the wall and so on.”
Moreover, he stated that the purpose of their visit was to engage with the NDPC to explore collaborative opportunities, organise capacity-building workshops for vice-chancellors and data officers, and establish a framework for compliance and data protection processes within universities.
Olatunji lauded the CVCNU’s efforts, particularly their interest in partnering on data protection issues. “As you have proposed, we are happy to work with you immediately,” he affirmed.
Olatunji emphasised the critical importance of the education sector, considering the vast amount of personal data processed regularly. He shared personal experiences, saying, “The education sector is even more peculiar. I remember when I was in the university, at the end of every semester, we go to the notice board to check our result, your name, your date of birth, your matriculation number, everything about you, all your scores and grades are there. Having 2.6 million students, a lot of things must have been mismanaged and neglected; it’s a very critical sector to us”.
In a statement issued by the commission’s head of media unit, Itunu Dosekun, it was announced that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between NDPC and CVCNU would be signed at a later date to formalize the collaboration. The partnership is set to ensure the protection and proper management of student data within Nigerian universities.