PRIVACY RIGHT IN NIGERIA: PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES IN THE DIGITAL ERA
In our world today, the dependence on the internet to do most of our personal and official activities is indeed on the increase given that digitalization has become an intrinsic and integral part of our development. Thus, with this rapid rate of technological advancements, we have begun a dawn where anything can be accessible within a few clicks.
Following the dawn of the digital era, globalization, and developments in the area of technology, there has been an increase in ways by which information circulates and as such renders the personal details of individuals vulnerable. The rapid pace of technological development enables individuals all over the world to use new information and communications technologies (ICTs) to improve their lives. At the same time, technology is enhancing the capacity of Governments, companies, and individuals to undertake surveillance, interception, and data collection, which may violate or abuse human rights, in particular the right to privacy. In light of all these, however, it goes without saying that this issue of globalization and digitalization has indeed left much to be desired especially as regards its challenges and prospects.
It is therefore against this background that we shall be examining privacy rights in Nigeria to expose its consequent prospects and challenges in light of digitalization, Globalization, and technological advancement.
PRIVACY RIGHT IN NIGERIA
Privacy Right is a concept that has been globally recognized as a fundamental right of every citizen of any well-meaning society. It connotes and underpins the fact that citizens should be free to express themselves without fear of censorship or being under surveillance either by the Government or any private individual. According to Yinka, it implies the exclusion of the public eye from prying into an individual’s affair. Another crucial aspect of the Right to Privacy entails the right to protect one’s image and personality and to have unfettered access to control one’s zones of exclusivity, space, and confidential information. The Right to Privacy lies within the realm of self-ownership. It is the moral liberty of doing what an individual deems fit to be down (sic) with his/her individualism and keeping others outside the sphere of his/her self-ownership.
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Despite that,t the right appears alien in Nigerian society, following ardent advocacy by lawyers and civil societies whose sole concern is data privacy and protection, the issue of data privacy as a fundamental right of citizens has begun to receive the requisite attention. Thus, in the case of Incorporated Trustees of Digital Rights Lawyers Initiative & 2 Ors. v. National Identity Management Commission, the Court opined thus: “Privacy right means the right to be free from public attention or the rights not to have others intrude into one’s private space uninvited or without one’s approval. It means to be able to stay away or apart from others without observation or intrusion.”
Furthermore, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides – “The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations, and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected”. The Court in interpreting this particular provision, held in Digital Rights Lawyers Initiative v. National Identity Management Commission, that the privacy of citizens as guaranteed under the section includes the right to protection of information and personal data. It is quite apposite to point out that this provision of the Constitution has left much to be desired as it is not comprehensive enough to ensure the protection and enforcement of privacy rights in Nigeria. Thus, in pursuance of a comprehensive regulation in the area of data protection in Nigeria to ensure the privacy rights of citizens, the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation, 2019 was enacted, though we have observed in our discourse that it is indeed replete with a lot of shortcomings.
PROSPECTS OF PRIVACY RIGHT IN THE DIGITAL ERA
- Increased participation in the Digital Economy: As a result of frequent and incessant reports about the insecurity of personal data and information of individuals on online digital platforms especially digital banking platforms, many Nigerians have developed cold feet towards maximizing the potential of the digital economy. Thus, where digitalization can ensure the security of personal data and information, we will experience an upsurge in the participation of individuals in the digital economy. Accordingly, protecting data will strengthen the digital economy by mitigating financial and legal risks, thereby fostering trust between businesses and consumers and promoting reliable and transparent economic ecosystems that uphold democratic values.
- Vibrant engagement of the Government via digital platforms: Privacy has been variously seen by scholars on the other side of the coin for freedom of expression. This goes to reason that where citizens can guarantee their privacy on digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, etc, they can freely engage the government, thereby causing their voices to be heard. A very lucid example of this is the launching of an e-platform in the Kingdom of Morocco on July 23, 2018, for citizens to engage the Government on public policies, thereby promoting democracy.
- Improved correspondence between individuals within and across borders: Communication is pivotal to the growth and development of any economy, as it fosters Intra and inter-trade. Thus, as most businesses and transactions have virtually gone online, a robust framework that guarantees the privacy rights of commercial traders and businessmen will go a long way in boosting international trade. Accordingly, insufficient protection can create negative market effects by reducing consumer confidence.
CHALLENGES OF PRIVACY RIGHT IN THE DIGITAL ERA
- Absence of comprehensive and robust substantive legislation on the subject matter: Up until the time of writing this paper, there is no comprehensive legislation known in Nigeria which adequately and sufficiently legislates on the Right to Privacy. The only substantive legislation is the Constitution, but unfortunately, it has failed to adequately legislate on the subject matter. Furthermore, the Nigerian Data Protection Regulation, 2019 (NDPR) is laden with a lot of shortcomings, chief amongst which is its restrictiveness in its objectives and definition of data. Worthy of mention also is the fact that the Digital Rights Protection Bill sponsored by Paradigm Initiative was rejected by the President, and it is our opinion that such legislation would have gone a long way to remedy the shortcomings of both Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution and the NDPR, 2019.
- Lack of Enforcement: Law is nothing if there is no defined and effectual means of enforcing those laws. This is to ensure and enable compliance from the populace. It is however disheartening to point out that NDPR lacks the willpower to enforce some of its provisions, as shown in its silence on some notable breaches. A very good example is the Nigerian Immigration Service’s publication of the international passport data page of a Nigerian resident in the UK, of which up till the time of writing this article, the author has no knowledge of the outcome of the investigation commenced by NITDA.
- Dearth of Judicial Precedents and resources on the subject matter: The Nigerian Judiciary thrives and grows on judicial precedents, especially as related to novel cases. Thus, since there are hardly cases or texts on violation of privacy rights, it is increasingly becoming difficult for both the bench and the bar to find authorities to rely on while granting reprieve to data violation victims.
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Despite the fact that the right of privacy in Nigeria is gradually evolving and its awareness increasing by the day, it is still fraught with a whole lot of Challenges and bottle-necks which for word-constraint, we have not been able to exhaustively discuss. However, this right is not without prospects, which aim at generally impacting the economy, thereby leading to the growth and development of the nation at large.
(2021) LPELR-55623 (CA)
Babalola, Olumide. “Data Protection and Privacy Challenges in Nigeria (Legal issues)” https://olumidebabalolalp.com/privacy-challenges-nigeria/ Being text of a lecture delivered at the Nigerian School of Internet Governance on the 9th day of July, 2019 at NIRA office in Lagos, accessed on 18th September, 2022 at 1:00 am
Brown, Deborah. “New UN resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age: Crucial and timely” published on 22 November 2016. https://policyreview.info/news/new-un-resolution-right-privacy-digital-age-crucial-and-timely/436 accessed on 17th September, 2022 at 1:45pm
Busari, Kemi. “Buhari declines assent to digital rights bill, four others” https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/321189-buhari-declines-assent-to-digital-rights-bill-four-others.html accessed on 20th September, 2022 at 4:09am
E-Government Program, Kingdom of Morocco, E-participation platform: FIKRA, available at https://www.egov.ma/en.e-participation-platform-fikra
Merritt, Rachael. “Balancing Data Privacy and Growth in the Digital Economy” https://www.cipe.org/blog/2021/12/29/balancing-data-privacy-and-growth-in-the-digital-economy/ accessed on 20th September, 2022 at 2:16am
Okedara, Solomon. “Nigerian Immigration service and the burden of data protection” https://globalfreedomofexpression.columbia.edu/updates/2019/06/nigerian-immigration-service-and-the-burden-of-data-protection/ accessed on 20th September, 2022 at 4:43am
Olomojobi, Yinka. Right to Privacy in Nigeria, https://ssrn.com/abstract=3062603 accessed on 17th September, 2022 at 1:50pm
Suit No. AB/83/2020
The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), “Data Protection regulations and international data flows: Implications for trade and development” published in April 19, 2016 https://www.tralac.org/news/article/9500-data-protection-regulations-and-international-data-flows-implications-for-trade-and-development.html accessed on 20th September, 2022 at 2:44am
 D. Brown, “New UN resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age: Crucial and timely” published on 22 November 2016. https://policyreview.info/news/new-un-resolution-right-privacy-digital-age-crucial-and-timely/436 accessed on 17th September, 2022 at 1:45pm
 Y. Olomojobi (Ph.D), Right to Privacy in Nigeria https://ssrn.com/abstract=3062603 accessed on 17th September 2022 at 11:50 pm
 Suit No. AB/83/2020
 Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
 (2021) LPELR-55623 (CA)
 R. Merritt, “Balancing Data Privacy and Growth in the Digital Economy” https://www.cipe.org/blog/2021/12/29/balancing-data-privacy-and-growth-in-the-digital-economy/ accessed on 20th September 2022 at 2:16 am
 See e-Government Program, Kingdom of Morocco, e-participation platform: FIKRA, available at https://www.egov.ma/en.e-participation-platform-fikra
 UNCTAD, “Data Protection regulations and international data flows: Implications for trade and development” published in April 19, 2016 https://www.tralac.org/news/article/9500-data-protection-regulations-and-international-data-flows-implications-for-trade-and-development.html accessed on 20th September, 2022 at 2:44am
 K. Busari, “Buhari declines assent to digital rights bill, four others” https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/321189-buhari-declines-assent-to-digital-rights-bill-four-others.html accessed on 20th September, 2022 at 4:09am
 S. Okedara, “Nigerian Immigration service and the burden of data protection” https://globalfreedomofexpression.columbia.edu/updates/2019/06/nigerian-immigration-service-and-the-burden-of-data-protection/ accessed on 20th September, 2022 at 4:43am
 O. Babalola, “Data Protection and Privacy Challenges in Nigeria (Legal issues)” Being text of a lecture delivered at the Nigerian School of Internet Governance on the 9th day of July, 2019 at NIRA office in Lagos https://olumidebabalolalp.com/privacy-challenges-nigeria/ accessed on 18th September, 2022 at 1:00 am