ATCON, ALTON Bicker over Data Protection Regulation


By Emma Okonji

Two industry associations, the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) and the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), have expressed opposing views over the right of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to implement its Data Protection Regulation across industry stakeholders.

While ALTON was of the view that implementation of the Data Protection Regulation by NITDA is outside its regulatory purview, ATCON has strongly opposed the view of ALTON, insisting that NITDA has the right to implement it.

In the absence of a Data Protection Law for the country that is meant to regulate the use of data and big data analytics, NITDA had early this year, come up with a Data Protection Regulation document and began its implementation across industry stakeholders. But ALTON kicked against the implementation, alleging possible regulatory friction between NITDA and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) the telecoms industry regulator.

ALTON, which strongly believes that data regulation falls within the purview of NCC, last month, wrote a protest letter to NCC, challenging the commission to urgently intervene in order to safeguard the interest of market players and preserve the powers of the NCC.

The letter which was signed by ATCON Chairman, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo and its Executives Secretary, Mr. Kazeem Oladepo, explained that the current issue with NITDA implementing its data protection regulation document, required urgent intervention by the commission, since by implication, it will appear that NITDA has assumed the role of a Data Protection Agency in Nigeria and its regulation overrides the commission’s existing provision on data processing in the industry.

According to the letter, in a bid to avoid a situation where industry members are caught in the crossfire of multiple regulations, “we respectfully request the commission’s guidance on how to proceed with NITDA on the aforementioned frameworks and regulation. The guidance will provide the much-needed clarity for the industry moving forward.”

ALTON members had argued that data protection regulation is all about public internet and communication, which is directly under the purview of the NCC, and wonder why NITDA, which supposed to confine itself with IT policy implementation, should delve into data protection regulation that is directly under the control of the NCC.

ALTON members had argued that what Nigeria needs is data protection law and not data protection regulation.

But in a contrary view, the President of ATCON, Mr. Olusola Teniola, told THISDAY that technology evolution that had brought about global convergence, gives NITDA the authority to regulate data in Nigeria.

“Everything is converging and global technology companies operating in Nigeria like Google, Apple, Microsoft are putting pressure on the regulation of technology content that cuts across all sectors of the economy, since there is global convergence that has drawn a thin line between regulation of data, broadcast and telecommunications,” Teniola said.

Teniola who disagreed with ALTON’s position that data regulation is within the purview of NCC, said the commission had never regulated data centre operators and cloud computing and that convergence of technology has placed NITDA in a vantage position to regulate data in the country.

Teniola, therefore called for review of the laws setting up NCC, NITDA, and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), through a stakeholders’ conference where the roles of each regulatory agency would be well spelt out.