The minister of communications and digital economy, Prof. Isa Pantami has emphasised the necessity of a data protection law to meet the nation's data protection concerns.
This was mentioned by Pantami on Tuesday in Abuja when he opened a national policy discussion on Nigeria's data protection law.
The minister claimed that basic privacy principles needed to be addressed by institutions and legislation pertaining to data protection.
He was represented by Abubakar Aziz, Director-General, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).
He asserts that the ministry is aware of the significance of data protection and privacy and that it has been working to establish national legislation and an organisation to deal with data protection issues.
“Indeed, policy and regulation are integral to forming an enabling environment that promotes innovation and fosters the emergence of innovative agents for the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.
“The growth of Nigeria’s digital economy drives innovations and free flow of data which in turn implies the need to safeguard the rights, freedom and privacy of citizens.
He emphasised that data protection laws will give people a legal foundation for contesting the gathering and unauthorised use of data, careless data handling, inaccurate documentation of sensitive information, and expanding commercial and governmental surveillance activities.
“At the core of data protection legislation is the desire to protect individuals’ right to privacy of their information and to secure lives and property.
“This is achieved through the implementation of legislation, policies and regulations on data privacy and protection.
“Therefore, the call for this national policy dialogue on data protection law is timely as it provides the much-needed avenue for wider consultation.
“This is in view of the general acceptability of data protection and privacy principles and regulations in both the public and private sector,’’ Pantami said.
The minister added that a strong and reliable digital identity system was essential to implementing the nation's Economic Recovery and Growth Plan and facilitating increased internet usage.
“Others are e-commerce and skills for a vibrant digital economy in Nigeria,’’ he said.
The minister reaffirmed the ministry's commitment to leading attempts to create progressive rules for the expansion of the digital economy.
“We must, therefore, mobilise political will, resources, skills and knowledge to address Nigeria’s digital challenges such as the subject matter area and facilitate the transition to a vibrant, inclusive and safe digital economy,’’ he said.
Dr Vincent Olatunji, National Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Data Protection Bureau, referred to the Data Protection Act as a piece of legislation that Nigeria must have.
Olatunji claims that it is not just in line with international best practices but also necessary to ensure the security and safety of citizens' data.
A data protection law for Nigeria was formerly promised to be implemented by Musa Solomon, the project coordinator for the ID4D project.
"Though there are subsidiary legislations, Nigeria has no principal legislation that guarantees the safety and security of the data of her citizens.’’
While expressing concern that previous efforts in that direction did not yield the desired result, Solomon assured the stakeholders that efforts were being intensified to ensure a difference.
“Presently, efforts are intensified to ensure that citizens enrol for and acquire the National Identity Number (NIN).
“The NIN will enable the country to have a national database to guide the government in planning.
“It is one thing to assemble citizens’ data and another to ensure that such data are utilised in a responsible manner.
"This can only be achieved through proper legislation.
On his part, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, described digital identification as the key to unlocking potential.
While assuring of the bank’s continued support through concessional financing to eliminate poverty in Nigeria, he said that one of the building blocks of having digital identification is legislation that protects data.
Chaudhuri said that it was important for every Nigerian to have an identity that would unlock his potential.
The National Population Commission's (NPC) acting director general, Uju Mbagwu, stated that data protection will help various organisations in their work of collecting, processing, and disseminating data.
Critical stakeholders were gathered for the national policy conversation on data protection law to discuss the next steps in enacting a major data protection law for Nigeria.
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