Assessing Nigeria’s Data Protection Regulation

Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi

Emma Okonji writes on the efforts by the National Information Technology Development Agency to implement the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation

Riding on the back of Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR), established by his predecessor, Inuwa, the current Director General of NITDA, within a space of one year in office, was able to create more than 2,700 jobs and grew the data security industry to surpass the N2.5 billion mark.

Although Inuwa focused on other key projects that were initiated within the last one year of his administration, he however did not lose focus on the implementation of Nigeria Data Protection Regulation, which was drawn from the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is a law on data protection and privacy in the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). The EU’s GDPR also addresses the transfer of personal data outside the EU and EEA areas.

With the objectives to safeguard the rights of persons to data privacy; foster safe conduct of transactions involving the exchange of personal data; prevent manipulation of personal data and ensure that Nigerian businesses remain competitive in international trade, Inuwa, within the last one year, ensured strict compliance of the implementation process, that has yielded positive results.

Data protection

NITDA introduced the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation rule and enforced its compliance from January 2019 as the new requirement on collection and processing of personal data and requires such activities to be in accordance with a lawful purpose consent by the data subject.
Based on the enforcement, NITDA mandated data organisations to put compliance measures in place within the first year of the regulation.

The Nigeria Data Protection Regulation, applies to all storage and processing of personal data conducted in respect of Nigerian citizens and residents and it covers transactions intended for the processing of personal data and to the actual processing of personal data and person(s) residing in Nigeria or residing outside Nigeria but of Nigeria nationality. Unlike the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), NDPR is not enforced on persons and organisations outside Nigeria that collect, store, or process data of Nigerians.

The Managing Director, ESET Nigeria and Ghana, one of the licensed Data Protection Compliance Organisations, Mr. Olufemi Ake, who commended NITDA for its commitment to data protection enforcement and implementation, said: “Compliance with the regulation has impacted data protection governance, information systems and security configuration, as well as documented policies and processes.”

Speaking on the successes recorded with the implementation of data protection law within the last one year, Inuwa said: “NITDA under my watch, issued supplementary regulation in line with the National Digital Economy Policy to strengthen the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR), and enhance data security and safety for all Nigerians.
“We have also inaugurated the Data Breach Investigation Team in collaboration with the office of the Inspector General of Police (IG). This has allowed us to track and report data infraction cases to Police. So far this year, we have resolved over 790 data regulation issues.”

He also said NITDA’s innovative way of implementing the data protection regulation under him, resulted in the creation of more than 2,700 jobs and data security industry worth more than N2.5 billion within a year.

Digital technology

Commending Nigerian youths, especially technology start-ups in the financial technology sector, Inuwa said young technology start-ups have made Nigeria proud through the adoption and use of technologies in developing solutions that are driving the financial sector, telecommunications sector and other sectors of the Nigerian economy. He said such commitment was already paving and assisting government in achieving the country’s digital transformation agenda, that is designed to make Nigerian cities smart and also centres for African technology hubs.

Inuwa said NITDA had always tracked and maintained a good relationship with young tech entrepreneurs. “So far we have supported 246 start-ups. Similarly, 125 Information Technology (IT) hubs and ecosystems builders have received support through Nigeria ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship Vision (NIIEV)”.

He added said NITDA’s programmes over the past 12 months have resulted in the employment of about 30,000 youths, while raising hopes that NITDA will continue to liaise with all partners in creating opportunities for Nigerians, especially now that the pandemic has disrupted global economy.

According to him, the ICT sector accounted for 17.83 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP, and we are targeting at least five per cent quarterly increase on every achievement in the years ahead.

“NITDA’s projection is to drive Nigeria towards a digital world. We are currently exploring the use and adoption of Blockchain Technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data exploration framework and strategy for adoption into the digital economy vision of President Muhammadu Buhari,” Inuwa said.

NITDA’s interventions

As a technology development agency, NITDA has initiated various Information Technology (IT) projects in the last one year, and has intervened in several developmental projects that are driving technology development in the country.

According to Inuwa, NITDA was able to set up 80 digital capacity training centres across all geopolitical zones within the last one year. NITDA also set up three IT hubs, four innovation and incubation parks, six IT community centres and three IT capacity-building centres in higher institutions of learning as well as in unserved and underserved communities across the country, the NITDA DG stated.

He further said that NITDA, in the last one year, also held capacity building programmes for over 650 artisans across four geo-political zones, and 200 IT centre managers across the country to be in tune with the digital economy policy and strategy of the government.

He said NITDA also held periodic innovation contests such as Future-Hack, where participants receive funding and mentorship to develop marketable products and services.

“Since assuming office as NITDA’s Director General in the last one year, I have given prize money to many winners and hand-hold them to turn their ideas into products and services. We have conducted entrepreneurship training on ICT for 200 women, at different times, where they were provided with laptops pre-installed with the requisite e-resources as support for their start-ups. This has created more than 500 jobs,” NITDA’s DG said.

He added, “Our activities at NITDA are to complement the efforts of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, in advancing digital technology and growing Nigeria’s digital economy.”


Allaying fears that regulation may stifle emerging technologies like cloud computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Internet of Things (IoTs), the Director General of NITDA said: “Our regulation is built around governmental regulation that is not designed to stifle technology growth and innovation, but rather to globally unlock opportunities and to achieve our mission of building a country of digital innovation and entrepreneurship that will be used to create economic prosperity.
Our regulation is an enabler to help industry players to scale up their businesses.”

NITDA’s vision in post-pandemic

Following the outbreak of COVID-19, which devastated global economies, resulting in the closure of schools globally including Nigeria, the agency, in response to the effect of the pandemic, launched the NITDA Academy, designed to proffer solutions for post-COVID-19 era.

The aim of the initiative, according to Inuwa, was to ensure the massive training of Nigerian citizens who were prevented by the pandemic from their normal daily activities.
“Our rescue effort in growing Nigerian digital economy post-pandemic is a strategic plan developed by our Tech4COVID-19 Committee to support about 100,000 ICT jobs and create an additional 30,000 jobs through the course of time, and the implementation is currently in progress,” he said.
NITDA, he added, had also set up a Virtual Startup Clinic, mostly for young people to meet with mentors, successful entrepreneurs, investors, industry specialists, business consultants and hub operators, to solve problems and challenges that they faced during the pandemic.

Tech in agriculture and education

In the areas of agriculture and education, Inuwa, in the last one year, was able to use technology to empower the agricultural and educational sectors of the Nigerian economy.
According to NITDA’s DG, government was able to put in place the National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture (NAVSA) initiative, which has resulted in the empowerment of 145 farmers to utilize digital, smart and precision technology to improve farm yield.

The NAVSA initiative was designed by the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy to take small scale farmers to commercial level using a performance-based approach. The beneficiary farmers under NAVSA programme are expected to build sustainable and digital business models that should create not less than six million jobs in the next 10 years.
In the area of technology application in education, NITDA embarked on the Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) initiative for Nigerian tertiary institutions, which is expected to address the challenges of education brought about by COVID-19, with the aim to prioritize e-learning in the country.

“We have capacity building outreach programmes extended to private and public institutions for lecturers, librarians, researchers, students at our tertiary institutions, officers of the Nigeria Police Force, journalists, NYSC members, and undergraduate on SIWES.
“So far we have delivered digital skills and literacy to over 25,000 Nigerians this year, despite the pandemic. We distributed over 2,000 laptops in driving this computer literacy initiative, and we have tracked 6,386 new jobs and roles created through our interventions,’’ Inuwa said.