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Nigerian parliament set to scrutinize new draft data protection law

Nigerian parliament set to scrutinize new draft data protection law

Any day now, Nigerian lawmakers will receive for deliberation a new draft personal data protection bill, after it was recently validated by stakeholders. Ninety million Nigerians are already enrolled in the national biometric identity scheme without adequate data protection legislation in place.

The bill that will soon be transmitted to parliament is a reworked version of the data protection bill of 2020 which President Muhammadu Buhari rejected, according to Nigerian media reports. The updated version is proposed by the executive branch.

Nigeria is running a huge digital identity project which makes it necessary to put in place a specific legal framework to govern the management of biometric and demographic data being collected from citizens.

The new draft bill, dated 4 October 2022, is a 45-page document which seeks to provide a legal framework for the protection of personal data, and establish the Nigeria Data Protection Commission for the regulation of the processing of personal data and for related matters, according to the bill’s memorandum.

Provisions of the draft text touch on the creation and functioning of the Nigeria Data Protection Commission, its governing council and administration, financial provisions, principles and lawful basis governing processing of personal data, the rights of a data subject, data security, cross-border transfer of personal data, how the legislation will be enforced, as well as issues on legal proceedings, among others.

Particularly, the bill states that the main reason for its existence is to “safeguard the fundamental rights and freedoms of data subjects as guaranteed under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.”

Offences in contravention of provisions of the proposed bill could lead to a fine of up to ten million naira (approximately US$23,000) and imprisonment for up to five years.

Meanwhile, senators have given assurance that the bill will be considered as soon as possible whenever it gets to them.

In this regard, Vanguard quotes the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information Communication Technology and Cybercrime, Yakubu Useni, as saying that “we are waiting for them to bring the bill and we will ensure it gets to the president within one month.”

In the meantime, Nigerian digital rights lawyer Olumide Babalola, in an article, makes an appraisal of the bill. He writes that although the text looks to be an improved version of the previous one, there are a number of concepts and terminologies which need to be properly defined in order to avoid nuances in interpretation when the document finally becomes law.

The Nigeria Digital Identity for Development (Nigeria ID4D) project has in the past emphasized the need of the data protection regulation as one of the aspects necessary for the better implementing of country’s the ongoing digital ID project.

Recently, Aliyu Aziz, the director general of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) – the government agency managing the digital ID project – said during an ID4Africa Livecast that about 90 million people have been enrolled so far for the scheme and that there were plans to have the data protection bill in parliament as soon as possible.

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