By Etuka Sunday
The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has issued Guidelines for Management of Personal Data by Public Institutions in Nigeria.
NITDA said, the action was in furtherance of its regulatory mandate to prevent breach or abuse of personal data in the country.
The Guidelines, according to the agency, were issued as supplementary regulation to the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR), 2019.
“The Guidelines stipulate the requirements for the processing of personal data by Public Institutions in Nigeria. It is issued to reinforce the implementation of the NDPR. All the principles and provisions of the NDPR remain valid and applicable to all Nigerians including public institutions,” it said.
The Head, Corporate Affairs and External Relations, NITDA, Mrs Hadiza Umar in a statement said, the Guideline requires all public institutions and any entity co-owned by the Government to process all personal data of Nigerians and Data Subjects in Nigeria in line with best practices and in conformity with the highest standards.
“It takes cognisance of the fact that some public sector data processing may be founded on Vital or Public interest. This position of trust therefore requires public data controllers and processors to apply the highest ethical and professional standards in processing such data.
“It also mandates the use of secure technology and automated processes for personal data by Public Institutions, in line with the requirements of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy, championed by Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), FNCS, FBCS, FIIM, the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy,” the statement said.
It noted that, “NITDA’s issuance of a public-sector specific Guideline is another trailblazing effort made in consonance with the emerging global data regulatory models.
“All Public Institutions holding or processing personal data are required to securely digitize all personal databases within 60 days from the issuance of the Guidelines.
“Similarly, all such public institutions are required to maintain the highest level of information security to guarantee confidentiality, integrity, availability and resilience of all databases within their control,” the statement said.
It said, “NITDA recognizes the need for collaboration in some cases between the public and private sector to tackle emergencies or other state-led interventions for the benefit of citizens. Therefore, the Guideline provides a strict framework for these types of collaborations to ensure that the privacy of Nigerians is not unduly infringed.
“The COVID-19 pandemic, for example, has brought up the need for more personal data use to limit the spread of the virus.
“While we recognise the existence of constitutional limitations on privacy rights in the interest of public health and safety, yet such limitations must be based on defined frameworks.
“NITDA therefore implores all concerned parties to comply strictly with the requirements of these Guidelines and seek professional guidance from licensed Data Protection Compliance Organisations (DPCO) for the purpose of compliance.
“NITDA will not relent in its surveillance to ensure adequate compliance with the NDPR and these Guidelines.
“The Agency shall not hesitate to invoke the punitive sanctions provided in the NITDA Act 2007 and NDPR in the event of breach or abuse of personal data of Nigerians.
“We urge all concerned parties to study these Guidelines diligently and apply them accordingly. We also encourage all parties to reach out to the Agency and seek clarifications or guidance when needed,” the statement said.