Sometimes in July 2020, the Digital Rights Lawyers Initiative (DRLI) which has been at the fore front of digital rights litigation since its incorporation in January 2019, got a huge boost in its strides towards advancement of the jurisprudence around digital rights in Nigeria when judgment was delivered in Suit No. AB/83/2020 between DRLI and National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).
In the judgment delivered on the 15th day of July 2020, the Ogun State High Court, per A.A. Akinyemi, J. specifically held at page 8 that:
“The kernel of both the provision of section 37 of the Constitution and these illuminating decisions is, to my mind, that privacy of a citizen of Nigeria shall not be violated. From these decisions, privacy to my mind, can be said to mean the right to be free from public attention or the right not to have others intrude into one’s private space uninvited or without one’s approval. It means to be able to stay away or apart from others without observation or intrusion. It also includes the protection of personal information from others. This right to privacy is not limited to his home but extends to anything that is private and personal to him including communication and personal data.” (Emphasis mine)
Although the court did not grant DRLI’s reliefs, the decision has, arguably, strategically set the tone for the advancement of the data protection jurisprudence vis a vis right to privacy in Nigerian courts.
Again, on Monday, 9th day of November 2020, the same Ogun State High Court, per O. Ogunfowora, J. delivered judgment in Suit No. HCT/262/2020 between DRLI and LT Solutions & Multimedia Limited when the Court rightly held that:
“Now, as regards data protection, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) set up under the NITDA Act 2007, is the government agency responsible for the regulation of the use and exchange of information and this agency issued the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation 2019 (The Regulation) which became operational from 25th January 2019. The Regulation contains the Nigerian government’s definitive policy statement on data protection ….
In the light of the above, I thus also have no hesitation in holding that, the right to privacy extends to protection of a citizen’s personal data …” (Emphasis mine)
With these two decisions on data protection, it is believed that, Nigerian privacy professionals now have a reference point on the nagging issue bordering on the relationship between privacy and data protection under our Constitution until an appellate decision is handed down on the argument.
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