The power of retrospection, introspection and foresight affords an individual, a group of individuals and even a nation the ability to make and hypothesize meaningful projections into the future.
Without a doubt, there is an undeniable wisdom in the proverbial saying that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of madness.
I want to believe that as a nation, we cannot continue to toe the quite familiar but unacceptable path of ethnic and religious sentiments.
Today as Nigerians, we are at a risk of becoming liabilities to humanity when all we do as citizens or leaders is to view things using the lens of religion and ethnicity. As a matter of urgent national importance.
I want to urge Nigerians and indeed the leaders that such sentiments, tendencies and actions should be avoided by all possible means this year.
I had to start off the conversation from this position because of the dire consequences it portends for the corporate existence of any nation.
However, in the spirit of patriotism and national expediency, I have decided to couch a number of suggestions for the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration for 2020 under these standpoints; Economic Development, Human Rights and Respect for the Rule of Law and lastly an All-Inclusive Government.
1. ECONOMIC GROWTH ANDDEVELOPMENT
It is a fact that cannot be gainsaid or misconstrued that the term “sustainable economic growth and development” is one of the key indicators of good governance in a country and as such the right policies must be put in place to ensure this. To put it in another way, good governance is central to economic growth and development and the absence of the latter is symptomatic of the failure of government to deliver on the former.
Economic development is attainable through the provision of the right infrastructure and engaging all the variables in the market so as to attain the desired equilibrium. This is to be contrasted with economic growth which is simply accounted for by market outputs and a rise in GDP.
An enabling environment must be created by the government to ensure a steady development of the economy and this agrees with the reasoning of scholars that economic development has a direct relationship with the environment. This implies the provision of physical infrastructure, increased spending on health, education etc. which invariably stimulates economic growth. The consensus therefore is that economic development and economic growth are inseparable.
As a legal practitioner, I do not want to be caught in the web of encroaching for instance, on the competence of the Economic Advisory Council inaugurated by the President in the course of the outgoing year by delving professionally into the nitty-gritty of the nation’seconomic outlook for 2019.
However, as a lawyer, it presupposes that I should have a fair understanding of a wide spectrum of issues including this instant one and it is on the strength of this that I will comment on the economic outlook for 2019 and suggest some possible ways of fostering economic growth and development going forward.
2019 has been a year of adjustment for Nigerians in terms of economic realities particularly in the aftermath of the closure of our borders which was an economic measure /policy to primarily curb the menace of smuggling and heavy dependence on foreign goods. It however came with a mixed impact for the economy because of the unexpected nature of the announcement.
In all sincerity, one would have thought that such economic decision of dire implications would not have been taken overnight without recourse to the concernedstakeholders in particular and the Nigerian people as a whole.
This is partly responsible for the public outcry that greeted the announcement, with market analysts arguing that the shock created negatively impacted the economy especially in the area of price inflation,notwithstanding increased local production. For instance, the price of a locally produced bag of rice has risen from 15000 to more than 20000.
It is therefore expedient that while the government is keen on boosting and increasing local production, it should also devise an interim means of ensuring price control even though economists may want to argue that what we are having now is the interplay of the forces of demand and supply.
The current price inflationespecially of rice which is arguably the most commonly consumed staple should be reversed as soon as possible because even though the border closure is an encouragement for domestic producers, it has however led to price increases for consumers and this is capable of making a mess out of the lofty economic decision.
Petrol which is another commonly smuggled commodity is a very important economic product that constitutes the major source of our foreign earnings and therefore efforts must be made to ensure that the country is not shortchanged by the activities of smugglers who sneak out the subsidized product to neighbouring countries where it is sold for a much higher price to their gain and to the detriment of Nigeria which incur losses in terms of customs’receipts and duties.
This protectionist mechanism of our economy is commendable given the fact that Nigeria incurs a lot of cost as a result of payment of subsidies on petrol which will be unaccounted for in this instance by the activities of the smugglers. With a careful look at the situation, one can safely assert that the Nigerian treasury stands to benefit more from the falling cost of petrol subsidies and an increase in customs receipts.
Still on the issue of border closure, I am not unaware that many have criticized the action as insensitive and untimely. However, I must admit that Nigeria would have been more economically stronger if the bold measures currently undertaken by this administration had been considered and adopted by previous administrations.
This is the reason why I must commend the government on one hand and also adviseit as noted earlier that economic policies of this nature will be better appreciated and welcomed when all the stakeholders and indeed the Nigerian people are carried along in terms of media advocacies, engagements and campaigns for such scheme.
I must admit that it is not easy for us as a nation to adjust our consumption pattern to suit locally produced goods overnight but with time we will learn to appreciate this sacrifice.
Further, a lot has also been said by our neighbours in West Africa, particularly about the possible breach of the ECOWAS protocol on the free movement of goods, services and people.
As a lawyer, I have gone through the protocols which only bother on goods produced by respective member states and not goods produced by non-member statesand as such neighbouring countries will do well to comply with the ECOWAS protocols on transit of goods.
It is therefore imperative that this current administration use this period to aggressively pursuecapacity building for local production of goods hitherto smuggled through our porous borders.
The government should also strive to strengthen the nation’s borders by boosting the capacity of border agents to ensure compliance with the relevant regulations on trade. The joint border patrol involving the Police, Customs, Immigration, Navy and State Security Services currently being proposed by Niger, Benin and Nigeria is a step in the right direction.
The electronic monitoring of our border posts alongside the deployment of relevant technology should also be considered. Some kind of technology will definitely be required to provide some form of“force multipliers” to such an extent that a border post or (an illegal route) can be effectively manned and controlled with just two border agents. I am certain such technology should not be far-fetched in this 21stcentury.
Going forward, there is no gain without pain; I want to commend Nigerians for enduring the temporary hardship occasioned by the border closure which is a necessary sacrifice for a vibrant and a robust economy. Undoubtedly, since the border closure, government accruals have increased in terms of payment of dutiesand there has been an increase in local production of some goods.
Nigerians however await price affordability of these locally produced goods which also should not be found wanting in terms of qualitybecause it is premised on this, that the current hardship being experienced can be reasonably justified, otherwise, the government should rethink the border closure altogether.
Another important area that should be brought into focus by this present administration is the diversification of the economy in order to achieve sustainable economic growth. The pressing demand of this new decade is a well planned decentralization of the economy from the oil sector to other sectors of the economy such as agriculture, solid minerals. We should stop paying lip-service to the issue of diversification and start “walking the talk”.
The revenue potentials in the manufacturing, financial technology, banking and other viable sectors should be harnessed by this administration. There should also be an intentional transitioning from a heavy dependence on oil exports to non-oil exports.
Exporters and prospective exporters of non-oil products such as groundnut, cocoa, yam, rubber, timber among others should be incentivized to enhance more participation in the economic development of the country.
The present infrastructural drive by this administration is expected to have an impact on its diversification plans and as such must be commended. One is not in doubt that there are quite a number of road projects going on in the country.
A few deserve to be mentioned; the Second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan expressway and the Abuja- Kano highway. Tangible progress is also be made with respect to the rail projects scattered across the country. There is no better way to open up our economy to a lot of investments other than by creating the enabling environment which includes the provision of both basic and advanced amenities as well as the implementation and enactmentof key policies and legislations respectively.
2. HUMAH RIGHTS AND RESPECT FOR THE RULE OF LAW
Human rights and the Rule of Law which possibly are two sides of the same coin have prominently featured as topics of interest in Nigeria. Both terms are adequately provided for under the Constitution and other laws of the land.
A country’s sure path to peace, economic prosperity and development is secured when laws are respected, obeyed and upheld no matter whose ox is gored.
The duty of protection of the fundamental human right of citizens rests on all fours on the three arms of government, i.e. the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The fourth estate of the realm- the press also has a role to play with respect to the protection of these rights.
The National Assembly which comprises of the Senate and the House of Representatives in exercise of its power under Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as altered enacts laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the essence of protection of Nigerians (majority and minority alike) via the instrumentality of laws is toprevent one from taking advantage of the other either in terms of numbers or influence.
I must stress here that majority may not necessarily be in terms of numerical strength but in terms of the influence wielded by a group against the others.
Thus it is the duty of the legislature to think ahead and put in place measures which may prevent any possible eventor occurrence which may cause widespread monumental humanitarian crisis.
I am compelled to believe that this is what informed the proposed hate speech and social media bills currently before the Senate, the bills have however generated heated debates with many Nigerians seeing them as a contravention of the right to freedom of speech as embedded in the Constitution and other international human right instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Notwithstanding, the sincerity of the intentions of the sponsors of the bills in particular and the Senate in general, I want to canvass that the Senate should pander to the instincts and wishes of Nigerians by suspending deliberations on them.
As we speak, the bills are just so unpopular among the populace and there is also the legitimate question that they are capable of being manipulated against perceived “enemies” of the State. In this instance, it is better to err on the side of caution than on the side of utter recklessness that the political class is well known for the hate speech bill may inadvertently become an anti-free speech law if passed and this seems to be the legitimate fears of citizens.
It may also interest the Senate to know that the United States which also practices a presidential system like us does not have hate speech laws, as a matter of fact; American courts have repeatedly ruled that laws criminalizing hate speech violate the guarantee to freedom of speech contained in the First amendment to the United State Constitution.
It is on the strength of the above that I want to assert that some provisions of some extant legislations such as the Criminal Code Act, the Nigeria Penal Code Act and the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention etc.) Act, 2015 have the capacity to address the issues raised in the proposed bills.
With particular reference to human rights, the National Assembly ensures protection of Nigerians across all divides and it is needful to stress here that the Chapter IV of the Constitution was not just inscribed in the Constitution to achieve nothing. The framers of the Constitution left no one in doubt as to their determination in ensuring that no Nigerian should have to suffer needlessly without getting justice and this lends credence to the legal maxim, Ubi Jus, Ibi Remedium that is, where there is a right, there is a remedy.
However, there is the delicate issue of how to strike the balance between upholding the Rule of Law and National Security. In my humble but considered opinion, the rule of law is quite accommodative of National Security; the ultimate threat to National Security is the lack of respect for the rule of law.
The executive arm of government cannot be seen or fingered to be breaking the law in the name of upholding national security, the rule of law and National Security are not two mutually exclusive terms.
The government cannot continue to rely on the Obiterdecision of the Supreme Court in the case of Asari Dokubo v. FRN, which is to the effect that when an individual interest conflicts with national interest, the national interest will naturally prevail.
I want to counsel that it is not within the purview of the executive arm of government to determine in each respective case whether there is a national interest to protect neither does it come within its domain to determine whether national security/interest supersedesindividual interest.
In any case, the judiciary is the only constitutional organ vested with the power to determine disputes in whatever form and I want to respectfully submit that assuming without conceding that a particular case reveals a prima facie threat to national security, the same does not extinguish the overriding power of the court to grant bail as enshrined in Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as altered.
Still on the judiciary, it is pertinent to reiterate that as an independent arm of government, it is vested with judicial powers for the enforcement of the fundamental human rights of citizen pursuant to Section 46 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as altered.
The executive on its part has been caught in the web of misconceptions by the public as well intended actions taken by it for the peaceful coexistence of the nationhas either been met with public outcry or outright condemnation.
This is evident in the perception of the public towards its handling of the cases of Sowore and Dasuki. The misconceptions were further heightened by the apparent disobedience to court orders as witnessed in the afore-mentioned cases.
I must state that there is simply no legal justification for such disobedience; the executive would have shown its predisposition and posture for the rule of law by complying immediately with the orders while also pursuing and exercising its right of appeal for a stay of execution of those orders.
It will however be counterproductive and self-serving to sum up based on these two cases that the totality of this administration’s drive towards the prevention of anarchy amounted to acomplete disregard for the rule of law.
I am not an advocate of executive lawlessness or arbitrariness, we are all stakeholders in issues of governance and as such we can put the government in check when there is a likelihood of it going above board to ensure the protection of the entire citizenry as intended in the Sowore’s case. We can do this by voicing out our genuine concerns as joint stakeholders in the Nigerian project.
By way of digression, I want to point out that disobedience to court orders is capable of diminishing the confidence of foreign investors in investing in the economy because of the fear that such investments may not be insulated by any known mechanism of the law which are unenforceable in case of a likely breach of agreement.
Of a fact, I am aware that most arbitration clauses contained in agreements with foreign businesses usually stipulates that the venue of arbitration in the event of a dispute should be overseas and not Nigeria.
This brings us to the duties, rights and obligations of the press as provided for by Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution as altered. The fourth estate of the realm should ensure a dispassionate and objective dissemination of information at all times to the citizens.
The government should endeavour to constantly engage the press so that it will not suffer perception issues. The freedom of the press is non-negotiable and paramount in a constitutional democracy and its protection must be guaranteed at all times, an attempt to gag the press or criminalize free speech is an invitation to the rejection of governmental authority which is entrusted on the government by the people.
Freedom of speech which is also provided under this section must be respected, citizens must be educated by the press that every right comes with its corresponding duty and responsibility, free speech therefore should not be construed to mean license to make careless, reckless and violence evoking statements.
3. AN ALL-INCLUSIVE GOVERNMENT
As a precursor to the preceding subhead, I want to emphasize that good governance is not ensured by leaders alone but also built by the trust reposed in the leaders by the citizenry. Thus an inclusive government is based on accountability and trust in the institutions put in place for effective governance of the nation.
A lot of negative incidents have transpired in recent times in our national development which could be attributed majorly to the wrong perception of the government coupled with a shallow, almost non-existent feedback mechanism.
Consequent upon this and as a matter of urgency, the Federal Government should shun whether covertly or openly all acts of nepotism, sectionalism and division which are some of the things the present government ably led by President Muhammadu Buhari has been severally accused of.
The President who is conferred with the executive powers of the Federation by virtue of Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution needs to keep faith with Nigerians by showing that he is indeed in words and action, the leader of the entire country.
It is counselled that he should ensure that appointments indeed reflect the principle of Federal Character in recognition of Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution.
The government should not only run an open door policy but if possible a “no door” policy which ensures a steady interface of the government with the people. Premised on this point, I will like to suggest that the Presidential media parleys should be held from time to time in order to stimulate healthy conversations between the President and the citizens.
Therefore, in the final analysis, I want to humbly assertthat for the nation to get out of the woods, a number of suggestions have been proposed in the entire stretch of this article which if carefully considered and adopted as part of the agenda of the government for the new year, has the capacity to transform and set our dear nation on the path of economic progress, political stability and social justice.
Confusing criticism of a communications minister, By David Onmeje
The problem in Nigeria is that a number of critics are more confused than the views they reel out in criticisms. Sometimes, they even reel out criticisms which burp with warped opinions, obviously pointing to the shadows of hirelings.
The National Communications Commission (NCC) Complex at Mbora was recently commissioned with President Muhammadu Buhari in attendance. It was a great accomplishment and a successful ceremony by all gradations.
But thereafter, a critic, apparently on a hatchet job, staged out with vituperations of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami. Apparently, he had personal or instigated issues with the minister, but unfortunately presented them in an award-winning trophy of flawed style and lost senses from the first word to the last with his flawed ink. Candidly, he impressed himself, but no one else.
The critic, Emmanuel Johnmar was loud in condemnations of the minister; labelled him a liar, corrupt, incompetent and a neophyte in managing Nigeria’s telecommunications industry. Scrutinising the contents of his criticisms, there was the confounding problem of establishing his real intent. He got himself confused more than the public he staged out to elucidate.
Was Johnmar attempting to praise Mr. President or berate him for appointing an incompetent person like Dr. Pantami to superintend on Nigeria’s communication’s industry and digital economy? At a point, the critic sounded like someone weeping for President Buhari for having a “disaster” like Pantami in his government. But could the critic be more catholic than the Pope?
What befuddled most was the critic’s parameters of what his intelligence could deliver to him as yardsticks of excellence or commendable performance on a job or public office. It was laughable that the critic’s notion of splendor in the case of NCC, one of the many agencies under the supervision of Dr. Pantami was that there is “no credibility in employment, promotions and awards of contracts.” Is this his idea of perfection in a public office?
Sadly, that’s the critic’s idea of excellence of a government agency or ministry and not service delivery to the public. It provided clear insights to discerning minds that disgruntled staff of NCC and their shadowy accomplices in the Ministry have contracted him to run down the minister at all cost.
These are same critics who abuse President Buhari’s principle and philosophy that government is continuity. Nigeria’s landscape is dotted with billions upon billions of uncompleted projects. And public funds have been sunk into them, but every successive government abandon such projects. But President Buhari introduced a new approach to governance by completing these abandoned projects, yet the critics are still fuming and mouthing all manner of insanities in condemnations.
When Buhari completes projects abandoned by his predecessors, the critics claim he is devoid of wisdom to initiate and complete his own projects. If he overlooks them and apply his principle, in the greater interest of Nigerians, the same critics still complain. One is compelled to think whether Buhari’s predecessors brought out the money for such projects from their family patrimony.
The crux of Johnmar’s criticisms on President Buhari, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami and the Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) NCC, Prof. Garba Danbatta is that the incumbent administration never appreciated the NCC Complex building they commissioned as started by previous administrations in Nigeria.
The same senior officials Johnmar sought desperately and provocatively to disparage have traversed a long trajectory in public leadership. President Buhari’s public leadership antecedents are open secrets. Whilst Prof. Danbatta has an established niche as a famed academic in his field of specialisation, who by virtue of public service, works under Minister Pantami. And both are crack brains in the Information and Communication (ICT) industry in Nigeria.
Dr. Pantami particularly has come a long way in the ICT industry home and abroad. He established his fame years back, right from the point he was the Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) at the outset of the President Buhari’s administration.
And Dr. Pantami marshalled out a work-plan and a template, which accomplished this mandate within the shortest possible time through an action frame-work he christened, as, “The Strategic Roadmap To Transform the Nigerian IT Sector,” document. The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy elevated the Nigeria’s regulation of the IT industry and left relics such as e-governance in MDAs; enhanced cybersecurity; digital inclusion; platforms for private sector capacity building by IT stakeholders, development of local content and its promotion.
Nigeria as a nation benefited a lot from his initiatives in NITDA. Through e-governance, ghost workers from the federal civil service numbering over 34, 000 were fished out and government saved billions of taxpayers’ money to invest in other sectors. JAMB now conducts Computer Based Tests (CBTs) and several other federal government MDAs are seamlessly harnessing the treasures of Dr. Pantami’s IT knowledge in different sectors of governance.
It is the reliability and impact of Dr. Pantami’s performance in NITDA that ASUU is hesitating enrolment into IPPIS and advancing all manner of excuses. It is therefore, uncharitable for any critic to descend his contracted ink or axe on such a rare gift to Nigeria in the IT or ICT sector. Pantami’s elevation to the position of minister streams from his preceding excellent performance as NITDA boss.
Nonetheless, as minister, Dr. Pantami has taken full control of Nigeria’s Telecoms industry and IT world; he was first to decry to Telecoms operators that they are over-billing Nigerians on data. He was frank that once Nigerians purchase data, it should not expire. He is working towards implementing the pay -as- you-go package for all GSM operators in the country. He is perfecting plans to compel Telecoms to charge Nigerians less for the services they offer.
It is very unconscionable for a self-styled critic to brand Dr. Pantami and those who work under him with such baseless allegations. These are allegations even the so-called critic has not dropped any hint about their veracity. It’s not all about anyone sleeping to wake up and some demons quarantining his senses to scribble rubbish. The critic imagined and wrote frivolous allegations against Dr. Pantami because Nigeria is in a democratic government and freedom of expression is permitted. It smacks of the abuse of the same liberty of freedom of expression.
Minister Pantami remains one of the best leadership personalities in the new team of President Buhari and a vital cog in the #NextLevel blueprint. And it is definite that detractors such as Johnmar would maliciously come after him. President Buhari selects his team carefully.
So, those trying to crucify Pantami’s efforts are both local and international enemies of Nigeria who do not want the progress of the country and have conscripted critics to act at their behest. The Minister’s stewardship is stainless and he is poised to add more value to the development of Nigeria in the ICT and IT sector. Let the angels of darkness allow the star to shine on Africa.
Dr. Pantami has demonstrated himself as a dynamite in ideas, which are beneficially explosive. The critics should take an honourable bow out of his leadership space. Nothing written against Pantami has any modicum of conviction. It is the simple and plain truth. Johnmar is however appreciated for exercising his freedom of expression in a democracy.
David Onmeje wrote this piece from London.
Beauty of an indiscretion: Birthday bash in haven Amen, By Abdulwarees Solanke
You never know the power of the state and the strength of the law until the rich and the powerful run foul of them.
If the rich offends the state or the classy commits an infraction against the government but escapes the law or the state looks at the other way, we call it impunity.
When impunity is the culture of a people, the society becomes a lawless one.
Everyone lives in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The State is Hobbesian. Might is Right. Life is short and brutish. Only the rich rules. The open streets becomes a jungle and hounds prey on the weak or justice is instant, without recourse to the law.
In this state of lawlessness, the mighty makes mess of the state by open disregard for the law, by side-stepping the rules and regulations, by buying their ways, by greasing palms of street level bureaucrats and by bridging processes.
So doing, the resolve of the lesser endowed to rise to wealth and fame at all cost is strengthened. In such state competition is heightened, just as corruption is endorsed.
But in reality, subh state is weak and the government and justice are in the pockets of only the tiny rich and powerful.
Such is the state where citizens run over one another and cheat the system.
Such is the state where all sorts of cults are created, with maddening followership or membership in the belief that it guarantees their security, protection or immunity when they are in need of anything, including escaping the long arm of the law.
With a call to the top where they are connected, they can kill and not be caught. They can rape and not be reported, not suffering and repercussion of their action.
They can loot or steal blindly and the state and its agents turn their blind eyes.
There is always disdain for any measure to rein in abuses. So in this culture of disdain and disrespect for the law is the fault line of most underdeveloped countries of Africa and Asia.
It is at the root violence and bloodshed that signpost many of our major cities. It is at the heart of disorderliness of our towns and municipalities.
It even explains horrible traffic congestion on our roads, pervasive pollution of our water, land and soil and noxious emission into our air.
It is behind accepting noise of the highest decibels as fun or spiritual fervour in our neighbourood without attracting sanctions .
It also explains the thriving business of fake or substandard products, the ascendancy of touts as kingmakers in our polity when they take over the motor parks as lords milking commuters trou inflated fares.
It explains why abhorrent behaviours are celebrated as popular culture, and so derelicts and drug addicts become models for the young, justifying deviance as a virtue but morality and orderliness as stupidity.
So it came to be that in this season of coronization and quarantization when there is a call for social distancing, even a total ban on public gathering jncluding coming together to serve our GOD, some people felt it was an opportunity to celebrate profanity in organizing a birthday bash.
At the centre of tis indiscretion is Sister Jenifer, the popular thespian who thrills us with er hilarious show on the tube and cable channels.
The place was the haven of the rich nestling Elekp Beach where the breeze from of the Atlantic sweeps every exquisite home in the exclusive.
It is a place of answered prayers, proudly declared as Amen Estate.
All WHO is WHO in Music and Theatre were on ground to repulsively shame the law as they loudly sang, danced giddily, ate voraciously, drank to stupor and possibly sniffed and smoked stuffs with reckless abandon.
In their carelessness, they posted their libertarian engrossment in the social media.
What an affront What and insult on the state, not just Lagos but the very Federal government that declared total lockdown on Eco Aromisalebelebe.
Will Mr. Sanwo-Olu and Dr. Hamzat as drivers of Lagos look the other way to this infraction?
Even if they do, will Baba Buhari, just pat Jenifa? TiPt6er party, even if in ignorance of the law is a test on the government.
As they were rounded up, and are now offering public apologies, should the state excuse tem? I think no. NO.
For whatever it is, ignorance is no excuse before the law. They are sufficiently informed especially as they are all icons.
Thy should be setting examples and so examples should be made of them on the repercussion of lawlessness.
This is the beauty in some excesses, indiscretions or mistakes we can capriciously or ignorantly commit.
How will we know that a law is in place or is effective if it is not tried or tested?
The sanction against the offenders must be sufficiently strong and uncompromisingly deterring so that others Who may be secretly o against the law can be sown that the law is an ass with respect for no one.
This birthday bash in haven Amen is not one to be forgiven for it is an insensitivity to the mood of the world when thousands are dying of a pandemic that is threatening our humanity.
How can some favoured people be dancing at a time hordes of coro-infected people are dying everywhere? It’s callousness. It’s insensitivity.
- Abdulwarees is an assistant director of strategic planning & corporate development at Voice of Nigeria, Ikoyi Lagos
Dissecting the data protection regulation in Nigeria
BY: Aissatou Sylla, Kashifu Abdullahi and Olufemi Daniel
On 25 January 2019, the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) was issued by the National Information Technology Development Agency (“NITDA”), the ICT regulator for the nation.
Among the objectives behind this regulation were the protection of the privacy rights and freedoms of Nigerian citizens, on the one hand, and the promotion of local and foreign investments in the digital economy by safeguarding the information systems infrastructure against breaches and implementing internationally compatible rules, on the other hand.
Nigeria is one of the few countries in Africa (the Ivory Coast being another example) that had decided to establish a privacy regulatory framework without creating a dedicated data protection authority. NITDA, statutorily instituted in 2007 has a mandate to oversee compliance with privacy laws. From a practical point of view, this stance has some advantages.
There are examples of certain data protection statutes that cannot be enforced years after enactment because their implementation required for the establishment of a data protection regulator. And due to different reasons, including budget, the regulatory body was yet to be created.
Another advantage is the possibility to have, within the same body, the expertise in both information security and privacy. Those two areas, which are central to data protection, are often separated. This can create coordination issues unless the authorities have set up means of systematically working closely and jointly.
The scope of the regulation is an extra-territorial one which applies to data controllers located outside Nigeria but processes the personal data of individuals resident in Nigeria. Hence, the regulation applies, for example, to most non-Nigerian social media companies with Nigerian-based users.
Key features of the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation
The definition of “personal data” in NDPR is similar to that of other African countries and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The term refers to “any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person”.
The definition further provides examples of personally identifiable information and includes MAC addresses, IP addresses, IMEI numbers, IMSI numbers and SIM numbers. NITDA considers that the personal data of deceased data subjects falls within the scope of the Regulation and can be enforced by their estate.
Similarly, the concept of “processing” is broadly construed and it includes inter alia data collection, recording or consultation.
This means, for example, that any operation tending to anonymise personal data, through encryption, anonymisation, pseudonymisation, hashing, scrambling prior to using the data for behavioural analyses or statistics, constitutes a processing activity and falls within the scope of the regulation. The same applies to any remote access or remote visualisation by, for instance, an IT support service provider, even if the data is not hosted on its systems.
With regards to the general principles governing data processing, the regulation provides that data must be collected and processed in accordance with a specific, legitimate and lawful purpose consented to by the data subject.
The data must be (i) adequate, accurate and without prejudice to the dignity of human person, (ii) stored only for the period within which it is reasonably needed and (iii) secured against all foreseeable hazards and breaches such as theft, cyberattack, viral attack, dissemination, manipulations of any kind, damage by rain, fire or exposure to other natural elements.
The legal bases on which personal data can be processed are (i) consent, (ii) the necessity for the performance of a contract, (iii) the compliance with a legal obligation, (iv) the protection of a vital interest and (v) public interest. Consent must be given by a statement or a clear affirmative action. This means that consent on an opt-out basis is prohibited.
Data subject rights are similar to the rights found in the GDPR or in the Kenyan and Beninese laws. They include the right to be informed in a clear, transparent and comprehensive manner, the right to rectification, the right to object to processing, the right to be forgotten, the right to restrict processing and the right to data portability.
Emphasis on accountability
Whereas the majority of the ECOWAS countries impose a notification to the data protection authority, or sometimes for its authorisation, prior to processing data (a requirement which is challenging to comply with for SMEs, and which would require a significant headcount increase at the regulator’s instance if it was widely complied with).
Nigeria has opted for a less bureaucratic approach and has instead imposed self-audits by data controllers who process the personal data of 1,000 data subjects or more. For anything beyond 2,000 data subjects, data controllers must, on an annual basis by 15 March, provide a summary of their audit to NITDA.
In addition, the regulation imposes the appointment of data protection officers. Guidance, to be issued by NITDA, will provide further detail on the thresholds beyond which it will be mandatory for an organisation to have an internal or external data protection officer.
Furthermore, compliance and self-audits are encouraged by the creation of Data Protection Compliance Organisations (“DPCOs”). These are organisations, such as consulting firms, audit firms, law firms etc, that apply to NITDA for a licence to provide training, auditing, and consulting services throughout the country.
DPCOs are expected to verify self-audits prior to submission to NITDA. This is a means of decentralising compliance activities for more efficiency.
For defaulters, the sanction for breach of the regulation is the greater of 10,000,000 naira or 2% of the annual gross revenue of the preceding year, where the data controller deals with more than 10,000 data subjects.
Nigeria continues to refine her privacy legal framework. NITDA is due to imminently publish an implementation framework for the regulation. It is also planning to issue guidance on specific subjects, such as; the requirements for a data protection officer, consent, data subject access request, self-auditing or international transfers of data.
In addition, a bill is under preparation with the view to enacting a data protection statute. The lessons from the implementation of the regulation is expected to form the fulcrum of a pragmatic national law.
*Aissatou Sylla, Attorney at Law, Senior Associate, Hogan Lovells LLP; Kashifu Abdullahi, Director General, National IT Development Agency & Olufemi Daniel, Lead Regulations Monitoring and Compliance, National IT Development Agency
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