The World Bank has advised the Federal Government to take urgent steps towards enacting a Data Protection Law for the country.

The bank underscored the importance of digital identification as key to unlocking the potential of every nation.

World Bank’s Country Director to Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, who spoke during a Policy Dialogue on Nigeria’s Data Protection Law, in Abuja, yesterday said a data protection law was imperative for Nigeria.

“Digital identification is key to unlocking the potential of nations. A data protection law is very critical for Nigeria. Nigeria’s potential for a digital economy is high. We are hopeful that Nigeria will be able to enact a data protection and privacy law soon,” Chaudhuri said.

No fewer than 250 stakeholders gave their nod to the steps to enacting a principal Data Protection Law for Nigeria.

A statement by the Manager, Communications, Nigeria Digital ID4D Project, Walter Duru, explained that the Dialogue, convened by the Nigeria Data Protection Bureau, with support from Nigeria Digital Identification for Development (ID4D) project, had in attendance, representatives of relevant public institutions, the private sector and civil society.

Minister for Communication and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Pantami, commended the Nigeria Digital ID4D project for supporting the event, describing data protection as very important for the country.

“Data has become a highly sought commodity and more people are concerned about how their data is stored, processed, and transmitted,” he said.

Represented by the Director-General, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Engr. Aliyu Aziz, the minister Pantami argued that a Data Protection Law would provide legal basis for challenging unlawful use of data.

Also speaking, the National Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Data Protection Bureau, Dr. Vincent Olatunji assured that the proposed law will help to secure the data of citizens.

Project Coordinator, Nigeria Digital Identification for Development Project, Odole Solomon said data protection was a constitutional matter, even as he made a case for a principal privacy law for Nigeria.

Solomon highlighted the benefits of digital identification, adding that the drive for citizens’ enrolment for National Identity Number (NIN) makes timely enactment of the law expedient.

“It is one thing to collate citizens’ data, and another to ensure that such data is utilised in a responsible manner. This can only be achieved through proper legislation. We need to continue to enhance the trust of the people. We must assure citizens of the security of their data,” he said.

Assuring stakeholders of the commitment of the National Assembly to enact a Data Protection Law for Nigeria, Chairman, Senate Committee on Information Communication Technology and Cyber Security, Senator Yakubu Oseni said the National Assembly was willing to enact a privacy law.

The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), represented by Acting Deputy Comptroller-General, in charge of Planning, Research and Statistics, Dora Amahian; National Population Commission (NPC), represented by the Director-General, Ugoeze Patience Mbagwu, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), National Pension Commission (PenCom), and several other public institutions took turns to justify the need for a data protection legislation.

Private sector and civil society actors all spoke in favour of a Data Protection Law for Nigeria.

Highlights of the event were panel discussions, break-out sessions, plenary, among others.

ID4D project is a Nigerian project, jointly funded by The World Bank, European Investment Bank and French Development Agency.