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Data Protection Regulation 2019: The New Law

posted 5 years ago


A more
centralized data security and privacy law has emerged in Nigeria with the
passing of the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation 2019 (“the Regulation”) by
the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency (“NITDA”).

many public and private bodies migrating their respective businesses and other
information systems online, information solutions in both the private and
public sectors now drive service delivery in the country through digital

paper provides an overview of data privacy and protection in Nigeria with a specific
focus on the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation 2019.


In this new digital
age and with data being referred to as “the new oil”, data has become highly
valuable and data privacy and protection has come to the forefront. Many
countries are now taking steps to ensure that the data and privacy of their citizens
are adequately protected. In May 2018, the European Union released the General
Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to deal with data protection and violations
stemming from it. The GDPR has revolutionized the way data protection and
privacy is viewed. The Regulation mirrors the GDPR because it makes businesses
or organizations liable if they or their third-party contractors handle citizens’
or residents’ personal data without complying with the privacy laws. Hopefully,
the Regulation will promote increased foreign investment and opportunities for

Inspite of the rapid
growth of technology and digitization in Nigeria, there has been no
comprehensive legislation that set out to protect the data of Nigerian
citizens. Section 37 of the Constitution provides that “…the privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone
conversations, and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and
protected…” and some sector-specific data protection regulations such as the
NCC Consumer Code of Practice Regulations and the Consumer Protection Framework of
the CBN seek
to protect the handling and transferring of data.

The National
Information Technology Development Agency (“the Agency”) is the primary
regulatory authority responsible for the administration of electronic
governance and monitoring of the use of electronic data and other forms of
electronic communication transactions in Nigeria. Section 6 of the National Information Technology Development Agency Act
(“NITDA Act”) sets out
the mandate of the Agency. It stipulates that:

The Agency shall-

a framework for the planning, research, development, standardization, application,
coordination, monitoring, evaluation and regulation of Information Technology
practices, activities and systems in Nigeria and all matters related thereto.

(b)    Provide guidelines to facilitate the
establishment and maintenance of appropriate [sic] for information technology
and systems application and development in Nigeria for public and private
sectors, urban-rural development, the economy, and the government;

(c)    Develop guidelines for electronic
governance and monitor the use of electronic data interchange and other forms
of electronic communication transactions as an alternative to paper-based
methods in government, commerce, education, the private and public sectors,
labour, and other fields, where the use of electronic communication may improve
the exchange of data and information.”

The Agency issued the
Regulation on 25th January 2019. The Regulation sets out to deal
comprehensively with the protection of the personal information of Nigerian
citizens and anyone resident in Nigeria. An understanding of its contents is
crucial to appreciating how far companies can go when handling personal data.

Data is an important
and key aspect of the operations of digital organizations and many other
businesses. The provisions of the Regulation are stringent and have been
enforceable since its issuance, therefore companies and organizations that
handle data must take them into cognizance in their dealings going forward.


3.1       Application: The
Regulation applies to all residents of Nigeria, all citizens of Nigeria
residing outside of Nigeria and all organizations processing personal data of
such individuals. It seeks to protect the privacy of individuals by setting
standards for the collection, processing, storage, usage, and disclosure of
personal data by organizations in a manner that is not prejudicial to the
dignity of a human person.

Regulation applies to “all transactions
intended for the processing of personal data, to the processing of personal
data notwithstanding the means by which the data processing is being conducted
or intended to be conducted in respect of natural persons in Nigeria”
 In summary, the Regulation applies to private
and public organizations, including not-for-profit.

Regulation defines the “Data Administrator as a person or an organization that
processes data.
 “Data Controller”
is defined as a person who either alone, jointly with other persons or in
common with other persons or a statutory body determines the purposes for or the
manner in which personal data is processed or is to be processed

Processing Principles:

Personal data shall be:

(a)  Collected
and processed in accordance with specific, legitimate and lawful purpose
consented to by the Data Subject;

(b)  Adequate, accurate and without prejudice
to the dignity of the human person;

(c)  Stored only for a period within which it
is reasonably needed; and

(d)  Secure against all foreseeable hazards
and such as theft, cyberattack, viral attack dissemination, manipulation of any
kind, damage by rain, fire and exposure to other natural elements

Lawful processing of
personal data requires (1) consent of the data subject; (2) for the performance
of a contract; (3) for compliance of a legal obligation; (4) to protect the
vital interests of the data subject; and (5) for the performance of a task
carried out in the public interest.

Regulation stipulates that organizations are responsible for the personal data
that is in their custody or control. Organizations owe a duty of care to the
Data Subject and also are accountable for all acts and omissions of data

3.3       Third-Party Contracts: A Data Controller shall enter into a
written contract with any third-party processing data on its behalf. In
addition, if an organization engages a third party to handle personal data
collected by the organization, the organization is also responsible for the
third party’s compliance with the Regulation.

can contract with service providers, including cloud computing service
providers to process and store client and employee personal information. The
service providers can be located outside Nigeria. However, if an organization
does use a foreign service provider, the processing shall be subject to the Regulation
and supervision of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation (“HAGF”).

addition, the organization must include in its policy the access (if any) of
third parties to personal data and purpose of access.

organization which transfers the processing of personal data to a foreign
country or an international organization shall ensure the following systems are
in place:

3.3.1    an adequate level of protection;

3.3.2    privacy protection oriented legal system of
the foreign country;

3.3.3    implementation data protection rules;

3.3.4    the
existence and effective functioning of one or more independent supervisory
authorities; and

3.3.5    the international commitments form legally
binding conventions or instruments.

example; if an organization decides to use a cloud computing service provider
located in the United States, that organization should be aware of the Patriot
 The Patriot Act allows the United States
government to intercept and access electronic communications and business
records. Any data stored in United States data centers, regardless of
ownership, fall under United States law, including the Patriot Act.

         Privacy Policy: Organizations must display a “simple
and conspicuous” and easily understandable privacy policy that contains
specified content. The Regulation requires the organizations to develop and
follow privacy policies that are reasonable and as stipulated under regulation
2.5 (a–i), so that the organization meets its obligations under the Regulation.

       Consent: There are specific requirements for
obtaining consent. This is an important and crucial requirement of the Regulation.
Section 2.1 of the Regulation stipulates that the “data subject” who is
generally any identifiable person, must consent before any data is collected
and that personal data must be collected and processed in a lawful manner. Organizations
may only collect, process and disclose personal data for purposes that are
reasonable and only to the extent that it is reasonable for meeting the
purposes for which the information was collected.
 Data Controllers may also only process
the collected personal information for the purposes for which the information
was originally collected.
 When a Data Controller collects
personal data from a Data Subject, it must give that individual notice of the
purpose of collection. It is also advisable that the Data Subject is provided
with the contact of the personnel within the organization that can answer any
questions regarding the personal data collected.

         Data Security: Article 2.1(d) of the Regulation
stipulates that personal data shall be:

“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”.

breach of data security amounts to a loss of privacy. Hence, Article 2.6
stipulates measures to protect personal data. The Data Controller is to ensure
the security of personal data collected. We would advise that the Data
Controller should establish security measures that reflect the sensitivity of
the personal data it collects and handles. Highly sensitive personal data would
require the most security, while anonymous data would require the least amount
of protection.

that suffer loss of privacy may use the Regulation to initiate proceedings against
organizations that disclose personal information without authorization due to a
security breach.

the Regulation does not provide a procedure to follow where there is a breach.
One would expect that an organization that suffers a security breach would
notify the NITDA of an incident that involves the loss of, unauthorized access
to, or disclosure of personal data that may pose a real risk of significant
harm to individuals. The organization should also notify the affected
individuals and organizations may do so under their own initiative.
Furthermore, it is advisable for organizations to notify data subjects of
available remedies in the event of a breach of their privacy policy and the
time frame for the remedy.  

    Implementation: The Regulation sets out specific
provisions for implementation for both public and private organizations and
they include the following:

§     All
organizations that control personal data shall within 3 months of the issuance
of the Regulation, release to the public their data protection policies, which
shall conform with these Regulations;

§     There
shall be a Data Protection Officer, to ensure compliance with the Regulations;

§     Within
6 months aftr the date of issuance of the Regulations, an Organization must
conduct an audit of its privacy and data protection services;

§     Where
a Data Controller processes the personal data of more han 1000 data subjects
in a period of 6 months, it shall submit a soft copy of the summary of the
audit to the Agency;

§     Where
a Data Controller processes the personal data of more than 2000 Data Subjects
in a period of 12 months, it shall submit a summary of its data protection
audit to the Agency.

         Penalties for Default: Any person who is subject to the
Regulation, who is found to be in breach shall be liable to the following:

§     A
Data Controller dealing with more than 10,000 Data Subjects, shall be subject
to the payment of a fine of 2% of its Annual Gross Revenue of the preceding
year or payment of the sum of N10,000,000
[ten million Naira], whichever is greater;

§     A
Data Controller dealing with less than 10,000 Data Subjects, shall be subject
to the payment of the fine of 1% of the Annual Gross Revenue of its preceding
year or payment of the sum of N2,000,000
[two million Naira], whichever is greater.


The standards set out
in the Regulation are reasonable. The Regulation imposes clear obligations on organizations.
Hence, an organization that collects personal data should ensure that:

Personal data collected can only be used for
the required purpose and no other purpose;

Personal data collected is held “in trust” for
the Data Subject’s  benefit;

There is no disclosure of personal data
without consent;

It implements safeguards to protect personal
data; and

Service providers destroy or return all
personal data collected and processed at the end of the contract.

 This Regulation
ensures that the protection of personal data in Nigeria is in consonance with
developing global best practices and fills the gap in the regulation of privacy
rights and data protection in Nigeria, in the absence of a comprehensive
legislation from the National Assembly.

Source: https://bit.ly/2xQoROd

further information on this article and area of law, please contact

Yimika Ketiku or Dolapo Bolu at
S. P. A. Ajibade & Co., Lagos

by telephone (+234 1 472 9890), fax (+234 1 4605092) Mobile (+234.809.990.0344) or (+234.08150865646)

Email: [email protected] or [email protected]



posted 4 days ago


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