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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

SIM registration: Izuogu urges alignment to EU data Act

HANNOVER-based Nigerian legal practitioner, Mr. Chukwuyere Izuogu, has said that for the proposed Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) registration due to commence Saturday, May 1, in the country, there must be some level of data protection issues to be addressed.

He also called for retooling of Nigerian laws to align itself with the European Union (EU) principle, which has become widely accepted globally as far as data protection is concerned.

Izuogu said that top of these issues needing attention is how to manage the lack of appropriate legislative solutions with respect to the data to be gathered from the exercise.

Mr. Izuogu in a chat with ITRealms Online, said that industry regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has a lot of work to do in order to make the registration successful.

“As national governments are becoming more aware of the importance of a good data protection framework, Nigeria must consciously strive to ensure that the personal data of the telecom subscribers are safeguarded,” he said.

This, he said, goes without saying that the common Nigerian person values his privacy and should not be exposed to situations where such a personal data is unlawfully processed or accessed.

The reality on ground, he pointed out, is the lack of the appropriate legislative solutions, which must be put in place to address data protection issues which are gradually manifesting in an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) savvy Nigerian society.

“We need to re-engineer our laws to accommodate the challenges presented by data protection, in the absence of the appropriate law, it becomes safe to place reliance on the principles enshrined under European Union (EU) model for data protection, which still remains a role model for implementing data protection laws worldwide,” he said.

Explaining the importance of data protection, Izuogu reiterated that the right to privacy has been in-alienable, thus, it could never be derogated from.

Further, he said, the directive by NCC was borne out of the need to have a credible database of SIM card holders in Nigeria that would be used to identify, for instance, criminals for possible prosecution who perpetrate criminal activities through the use of mobile phones by exploiting the anonymity of unregistered SIM Card.

Identifying data protection and privacy issues in the implementation of this SIM card registration process as key to its would-be success, Izuogu noted the right to privacy is an inalienable human right that cannot be derogated from, neither could it be subsumed under any government law or policy.

He emphasized though that Nigeria presently has no legislative framework for data protection, but noted that the right to privacy could be traced to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999, in particular Section 37, which provides “the privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected.”

According to him, the broad import of this particular statutory provision is to guarantee from interference and intrusion, the private affairs of the Nigerian person.

When this constitutional right is juxtaposed with NCC’s directive to register SIM cards, one is compelled to ask the nature of privacy and or data protection issues involved in the registration of these SIM cards.

Describing SIM cards as a tool used to identify subscribers to mobile telecommunications services. It is a removable card that allows the user to transfer its subscribed services to another mobile device.

As there is a dearth of data protection laws in Nigeria, I intend to propose as a reference model the principles contained in the EU wide Data Protection Directive 95/46 EC, as a guide for the implementation of this SIM card registration process.

Amongst other things, this directive has been internationally touted as a proper reference model for data protection, the standards set are widely regarded as “high” and places an emphasis on human rights while its principles have been flexible in their approach.

He said, in pursuant to this directive, data or personal data means any information relating to an identifiable natural person, which also goes further in defining an identifiable natural person as one who could be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identification number.


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