The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami has said that implementing legislation to ensure the protection and confidentiality of citizens’ data, as part of the government’s responsibility to protect the lives and property of Nigerians, is long overdue.
Pantami made his assertion when he flagged off the National Validation on Data Protection Bill workshop organised by the Nigeria Data Protection Bureau (NDPB), in collaboration with the Nigeria Digital Identification for Development (ID4D) in Abuja.
The minister said that as part of efforts to sustain the country’s digital economic growth, it was crucial to have legislation that would ensure data protection, considering the amount of data being generated in the country daily.
“We know the data generated today is mind-boggling. We must, therefore, have regulations in place to ensure confidentiality and privacy of data being generated.”
Speaking about the journey so far on the implementation of the data protection bill, the minister disclosed that the process began when he was the director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). The subsidiary legislation, Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR), he said, was enacted on January 29, 2019, based on the provision of NITDA Act 2007.
Pantami revealed that unprecedented achievements have been made with the NDPR in the areas of creating awareness, job creation and revenue generation for the government, amongst others.
He, however, cautioned that despite all the exploits made through the NDPR, it was necessary to have principal legislation to fully institutionalise data protection in the country, an initiative which birthed the establishment of the Nigeria Data Protection Bureau on February 4, 2022.
“To ensure privacy and confidentiality of our citizens’ data, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari approved the establishment of NDPB.”
Pantami stated that big data analytics, datafication, Internet of Things, among other innovations that come with the emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, are all dependent on data.
The minister hinted that the reason for developing and implementing the NDPR was to ensure that there was no vacuum while enacting the principal legislation of Nigeria’s data protection law.
“In the past three years in Nigeria, we discovered that the quantity of data being generated increased by 202 per cent, so there must be legislation in place to ensure that these data are secure and private,” he noted.
Speaking on the well-established statutory foundation of data protection in the country, Pantami made references to Section 37 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, Section 6 Article A of the NITDA Act, Sections 26 and 29 of the National Identity Management (NIMC) Act 2007, Section 3 of the Child Rights Act 2013 and Section 13 of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, all of which emphasised data protection within the provisions of their laws.
The minister thanked the Legislature, development partners, Federal Ministry of Justice and all stakeholders for their support to the bureau and the ministry in the process of actualising the enactment of the principal data protection legislation, thus far.
“It is necessary to organise this national discussion where we brought together the legislative arm of government, private sectors among others to review all we have been doing critically and if we agree based on what is recommended to me, it will be transmitted to the Federal Executive Council and, thereafter, if approved, transmitted to Mr. President and the National Assembly so that we can kick-start the process,” he reasoned.
Present at the event for the presentation of the Data Protection Bill for review were the chairman, Senate Committee on ICT and Cybercrime, Sen. Oseni Yakubu, Sen. Ibrahim Hadejia and the chairman, House Committee on ICT, Hon. Abubakar Lado Suleja.
Others present were the NITDA director-general, Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi, represented by the agency’s director for information technology infrastructure solutions (ITIS), Dr. Usman Abdullahi; NIMC DG, Engr. Aliyu Aziz; Country director, World Bank Nigeria, Dr. Shubham Chaudhuri; Country director, French Development Agency, Mr. Xavier Muron, hosts of the event, the national commissioner of NDPB, Dr. Vincent Olatunji and the coordinator, Nigeria ID4D Project, Mr. Solomon Odole, as well as other relevant stakeholders.