Privacy Laws in Nigeria

3 March 2017

A person’s right to privacy is a fundamental human right that can neither be subsumed under law nor derogated from any nation’s constitution, however legislation is still needed in most countries to provide a framework for its definition and regulation. In Nigeria, a citizen’s right to privacy is spelt out in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999); Section 37 ‘Right to Private and Family Life’ provides: ‘the privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected. This statutory provision seeks to uphold respect for the Nigerian citizen’s private affairs by protecting them from intrusion and unsolicited interference. According to Privacy International (2007), there are four (4) aspects of privacy namely, information privacy, bodily privacy, privacy of communications and territorial privacy. To my mind, Nigeria’s constitution provides adequate protection to its citizens on all four aspects, however several observers have been clamoring for a review of the country’s privacy laws to address newer, more sophisticated threats to privacy, particularly in the area of information privacy.

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While we can all agree that privacy is the birthright of every individual, when it comes to defining what ‘privacy’ actually is, we all have widely different views depending on the context and environment we consider. It is perhaps because of this ambiguity that many countries fuse the concept of privacy with one that’s easier to define – data protection, giving birth to the understanding of privacy as management of personal information.

As it stands now, Nigeria has no clearly spelt out legislative framework for data protection and it’s a situation that has observers up in arms. To be fair to the government, there have been attempts to address this. In the past five years, two bills have been drafted and presented to the House of Assembly in an attempt to implement data protection laws at par with global standards. However, while this is a step in the right direction, most analysts would argue that so far, the decision makers deserve an ‘E’ for effort and not for ‘excellence’, Akinsuyi F.

F (2010) summarizes their concerns, ‘there are a number of gaps in relation to what has been proposed in these Bills and what is required for the laws to be adequate enough to tackle the growing risks, threats and vulnerabilities that can accrue to governments, organizations, and individuals. ’ In my opinion, Nigeria’s approach to addressing inadequacies in its data protection and privacy legislation should be to emulate countries with more robust frameworks and use their laws as a template to guide ours.

Legal analyst Chukwuyere Izuogu (LL. M) proposes we use the principles contained in the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC, adopted round the EU, as a reference model chiefly because it is highly respected internationally and ‘places emphasis on human rights while its principles have been flexible in their approach. ’ Izuogu C. E (2010) In fact, the much-heralded Data Protection Act employed in the United Kingdom was formed in 1998 to align UK law with the European Directive.

http://www. nigeria-law. org/ConstitutionOfTheFederalRepublicOfNigeria. htm

https://www.privacyinternational.org/

http://techtrendsng. com/nigerian-cyber-crime-and-privacy-legislations-time-for-reviewpart-1/

http://saharareporters.com/2010/04/27/data-protection-issues-and-legal-implications-nigerian-communications-commission%E2%80%99s-ncc

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