There has been published on the website of concerned government agencies including NITDA, INEC and the rest, the draft Data Protection Bill. The law seeks to basically improve on the newly institutionalized regime of data protection in the country, which was birthed with the NDPR 2019, although there have always been data privacy issues. At a first glance, I could spot what I consider a fundamental error with the bill and this is the cultural thing with setting up new commissions and boards with almost every federal law enacted. This is rather disheartening in the wake of the call to reduce the cost of governance and yet again, I would wonder whether the country has utilized NITDA enough to now abandon it.
With a keen analysis of the history of inter-agency relations in Nigeria, I am almost certain that 5 years down the line, we are going to read of an inter-agency dispute between NITDA and the new commission for data protection. This only speaks to bad governance and wasteful resource culture which is very intentional in depleting states’ resources by unnecessarily overburdening governments running costs. On the other hand, I ask, could we not have just amended the NITDA Act to accommodate these developments? Is the Data Protection Bill really necessary? Or are we just a country of flowing with the crowd and forgetting the essence? All these questions I ask because we have witnessed how critical some inter-government agency disputes can impact on the business space. One that cannot be easily forgotten is that of NESREA and the NCC over the siting of telecommunications masts, due to their perceived health implications.
Even the United Kingdom, did not suddenly create a whole new government agency for the purpose of implementing its Data Protection Act of 2018 and it is not as if it is their first time enacting such a law. The principal office in-charge of the enforcement of the UK Data Protection law is the Officer of the Information Commissioner. So, one wonders from whence did Nigeria learn this culture that lacks all forms of frugal decency? I guess we may never know. The attendant implication of the creation of the agency of government that will arise is getting a new property to house the agency, and of course the capital expenses on setting up the office and then employing staff that may just end up duplicating functions already being performed by other related agencies. Is that the wise way to go about governance in the light of prevailing economic realities? Your guess is as good as mine.
If you ask my opinion, I would offer it for free that, we do not have any need for enacting a law that would necessarily birth a new government body and thereby further stretch the already ailing revenue base. NITDA is ably constituted to handle the responsibilities allocated to this new commission that will be established. If there was any need, it would have been to simply amend the NITDA Act of 2007 and we would be good to go. In any case, there is not any major departure from the NDPR, hence my reasoning. In the long-run, best practices in data regulation will be easily achieved by issuing regulations and periodic amendments from time to time, all of which NITDA is properly positioned to do. I urge that wise reason will prevail over this renewed round of revenue waste.