The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, Tuesday reiterated the need for a data protection law to address data protection concerns in the country.
Pantami said this in Abuja while declaring open a national policy dialogue on data protection law in Nigeria.
Represented by Abubakar Aziz, Director-General of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), the minister said that data protection legislation and institutions were necessary in addressing fundamental privacy principles.
According to him, the ministry surely recognizes the importance of data protection and privacy and has been pushing for a national legislation and an agency to address data protection concerns.
“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 said.
Pantami emphasized that data protection legislation would provide a legal basis for challenging the collection and unlawful use of data, negligent data handling, incorrect documentation of sensitive information.
He said that data protection legislation would assist the growing corporate and state sponsored surveillance activities.
“At the core of data protection, legislation is the desire to protect individual’s right to privacy of their information and to secure lives and properties.
“This is achieved through the implementation of legislations, 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 said that a strong and robust digital identity system was central to realising the country’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan and enables greater use of the internet.
“Others are e-commerce and skills for a vibrant digital economy in Nigeria,’’ he said.
Pantami assured of the ministry’s determination to continue to drive initiatives in implementing developmental regulations for the growth of the digital economy.
“We must therefore, mobilize 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.
Earlier, Musa Solomon, the Project Coordinator, Nigeria Digital Identification for Development (ID4D) Project, Musa Solomon, pledged to support the efforts towards enacting a data protection legislation for Nigeria.
Solomon said that “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 intensified to ensure a difference.
“Presently, efforts are intensified to ensure that citizens enroll 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,” he said
On his part, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, described digital identification as 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 was legislation that protects data.
Chaudhuri said that it was important for every Nigerian to have an identity that would unlock his potential.
Uju Mbagwu, the Acting Director-General, National Population Commission (NPC), said that data protection would aid many agencies in carrying out their task of gathering, processing and disseminating data.
The national policy dialogue on data protection law brought together critical stakeholders to deliberate on the way forward, towards the enactment of a principal Data Protection Legislation for Nigeria.