Repeal Repressive Laws That Deny Nigerians Digital, Privacy Rights, SERAP Tells FG
The Socio Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Federal Government to work with the National Assembly to ensure the passage of the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, and also to repeal all repressive and anachronistic laws and regulations that deny Nigerians their data and privacy rights.
The organisation further asked the two arms of government to gazette the Nigerian Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) in order to make it enforceable and as part of the Nigerian law.
SERAP made the call in the new publication of SERAP titled, “We Are All Vulnerable: Crack Down On Data And Digital Rights In Nigeria.” The public presentation of the organisation was held at Radisson Hotel, Isaac John Street, GRA, Ikeja.
While calling on the Federal Government to take steps, as a matter of urgency, in ensuring that Nigeria becomes a respectable 21st Century digitised economy and a society governed by the rule of law, SERAP is also urging the government to protect Nigerians data and privacy rights as guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution and various other human rights treaties to which the country is a state party.
Dr. Bunmi Afinowi, a lecturer in the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, Lagos, while presenting the Data and Digital Rights (DDR) monitor, described as worrisome practices, government interventions in data and digital governance as well as its manner of data collection which she said was not in line with known international best practices.
She also decried the repressive actions of state agencies against data and digital rights in Nigeria.
She said research has shown a lot of multiplicity in data collection in Nigeria by governments and ascribed the situation to frequent policy somersaults.
Dr. Afinowi recalled that in 2014, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) introduced Bank Verification Number (BVN) which entailed data capturing, noting that thereafter, Nigerians have been forced to undergo series of data capturing by telecommunication companies, National Identification Number (NIN) under National Identity Management System scheme, Permanent Voters Card (PVC), among others.
She regretted that research has shown that all these data submitted to different agencies of government and organisations “are susceptible to illegal intrusion, in essence, personal data of citizens are not safe.”
She added, “There is no security protocol and as such could be used by anyone who knows the recipient’s surname.”
The university teacher lamented “rampant commercialisation of personal data of Nigerians,” noting that such data are often kept without the consent of the owner.
She noted that frequent compromise and theft of these data have been reported in some places.
As a way out, she advised that there should be one clear legislation on data collection in Nigeria and that one institution be saddled with the responsibility of data collection.
Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, in a keynote address disclosed that government has licensed 103 data compliance organisations.
He therefore stressed the need for all agencies to have data compliance officers to guarantee data protection.
The minister who was represented by the Chief Executive Officer, National Data Protection Bureau (NDPB), Dr. Vincent Olatunji, urged Nigerians to be careful about information and data they post online noting “we are all vulnerable in terms of the details we put out online.”
He said NDPB is currently working on a Data Protection Bill which will soon be tabled before the National Assembly for legislation, adding “this bill will protect what we are doing in terms of protection of digital and data rights in Nigeria.”
He disclosed that the country is working with other African countries to take care and protect what we are doing online. He said the country is also working with the World Bank and European Union (EU) to ensure that we have a robust law for data and digital protection in Nigeria.
“For us to be in line with global standards, all stakeholders should be able to apportion roles to themselves to ensure that the digital and data rights of citizens are taken care of and protected. The government cannot do it alone. We all must come together and ensure proper implementation of people’s digital rights,” he said.
Earlier, in a welcome address, the Executive Director of SERAP, Adetokunbo Mumuni, who was represented by the deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, lamented that there have been little awareness about data and digital rights, adding that this explains why people put so much information online without thinking whether they are protected or not.
He stated, for instance, that when people buy online, “a faceless being is asking for your details including your account number and ATM cards and you easily provide it. You can imagine what can be done with your statement of account.”
He said, “We saw the issues as they unfolded within the local context and see the need to create awareness among people. Experience has shown that people may not understand their data and digital rights and that is what we need to understand.”
All stakeholders should be able to apportion roles to themselves to ensure that the digital and data rights of citizens are taken care of and protected. The government cannot do it alone. We all must come together and ensure proper implementation of people’s digital rights,” he said.