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No More Mercy for Non-Filing of Data Protection Audit, Minister tells NITDA

By Stanley Iwuoha. ,

Data Protection Compliance Organisations (DPCO) who want only to breach personal data before now may need to think twice.

This is even as the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami has directed the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, the sole data protection authority, to bring any defaulter to book.

The Minister said his assessment of the work done so far by NITDA regarding compliance to data protection policy, indicated some room for more enforcement by the regulatory agency, and promised his full support to ensure entities who wantonly breach personal data are brought to book as soon as possible.

The Minister issued the directive at the Public Presentation of the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) Performance Report 2019-2020 held at the weekend in Abuja.

Pantami, who urged NITDA not to compromise laid down rules in the enforcement of the NDPR also challenged NITDA to act as unbiased regulator by ensuring that no Data Protection Compliance Organisations (DPCO) found guilty of breeching any provision of the NDPR goes unpunished.

“I am aware of some quick loan service providers who use personal data to defame and threaten their customers, such issues should be looked into in line with the NDPR.

‘‘Enforcement of this provision should be more vigorously pursued going forward.

“This therefore brings me to the issue of Data Protection Compliance Organisations (DPCO). I encourage NITDA to increase regulatory oversight over current DPCOs and carefully consider current pending applications in line with its published criteria and processes.

‘‘The Ministry is working hard to make Nigeria a leading light in the digital economy of Africa and on the global stage. The recent presidential directive for the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to be moved to the Ministry is part of government’s efforts at accelerating the achievement of the
National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy, NDEPS 2019 for a Digital Nigeria.’’

While acknowledging NIMC for playing vital role in the promotion of the current draft data protection bill, the Minister encouraged the drafting team of the Data Protection Bill 2020 to ensure that the lessons presented in the report be incorporated into the Bill.

For him, “Specific recognition should be given to Data Protection Compliance Organisations,” saying that this is the most innovative addition Nigeria has brought to the global implementation of data protection and we must be proud of it.”

The Minister opined that the proposed Data Protection Commission, when constituted should work closely with the Ministry and its Agencies, in view of the experience we have garnered in this novel field.

He further urged NITDA to ensure wide circulation of the report to the National Assembly, embassies and international agencies, heads of government parastatals, private sector players, the academia and other relevant stakeholders.

The Director General of NITDA, Kashifu Abdullahi said the NDPR report was a product of immense leadership support received from President Muhammadu Buhari, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy and stakeholders within the public and private sector.

Abdullahi, who described the report as a new dawn, affirmed that NITDA had achieved significant milestones in the implementation of the NDPR.

The publication of an annual report by data protection authorities is a global best practice. Aside from Mauritius that published its report in December, 2019, we are proud to say that Nigeria is the only African country that has published an annual report in Africa for the year 2020.

He highlighted some of the achievements recorded in the implementation of the NDPR from January 2019 to July, 2020 as: appointment if NITDA in April this year as the Vice Chair of the African Union (Policy and Regulatory Initiative for Digital Africa- PRIDA) Working Group on Data Protection Harmonisation and Localisation; NITDA Licensed 70 Data Protection Compliance Organisations; over 2,686 new jobs roles were created; the Data Breach Investigation Team was inaugurated in conjunction with the office of the Inspector General of Police and data protection sector is currently valued at N2,295,240,000 (using the median value of audit implementation cost).

Other achievements he listed include: the Federal Government earned the sum of N12,650, 000 from DPCO licensing and Audit report filing; 230 compliance and enforcement notices were issued; 8 data breach cases initiated and deposited with the Police and over 790 issues were resolved among others.

‘‘We have achieved significant milestones in the implementation of the NDPR. The publication of an annual report by data protection authorities is a global best practice. Aside from Mauritius that published its report in December, 2019, we are proud to say that Nigeria is the only African country that has published an annual report in Africa for the year 2020.

‘‘We have also experienced a number of challenges, which we are working on daily to bring the best value to the digital economy sector. The main challenges to the NDPR implementation are- inadequate awareness, paucity of human and financial resources and bottleneck to data breach investigation and prosecution among others. These challenges notwithstanding, I dare say that NITDA staff have been highly innovative and professional in performing this herculean task.

‘‘I wish to state that the NDPR has shown our capacity for innovativeness and developmental regulation. However, much more can still be done. I am happy that the new Bill on Data Protection is on its way to the National Assembly.

‘‘The Data Protection Compliance Organisation model, focuses on compliance rather than enforcement and NITDA’s strategic relationship with regulators on the African continent and beyond are areas the proposed Data Protection Commission should endeavour to replicate and strengthen.

‘‘NITDA is willing, able and ready to support the Commission with necessary capacity, advice and strategies to help it achieve its mandate,’’ said the NITDA boss.

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