Nigerian lawmakers to prevent telecom firms from storing data abroad

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The House of Representatives has called on the Federal Government to mandate the Localisation of Data and Operations by Telecoms firms in the country in the interest of national security.

The house urged the Federal Ministry of Communications to take necessary action to address all undermining activities of the telecommunication firms operating in Nigeria by ensuring strict compliance with Data municipal laws.

This was sequel to a unanimous adoption of a motion by Rep. Chukwuemeka Ujam (PDP- Enugu) on Wednesday at the plenary.

Earlier, Ujam said that the Nigerian Communications Commission Act of 2003 vested regulatory responsibilities over the ICT sector on the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

He said that the NCC was mandated to ensure compliance with the obligations of service providers under the Consumer Code of Practice Regulations 2007, in addition to the Universal Consumer Bill of Rights.

Ujam said that the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) guidelines for Nigerian content development in communication and information technology required all ICT companies to host all government and consumer data locally within the country.

According to him, it is what is obtainable in most countries which have laws that contain explicit data localization requirement.

He said following revelations by Snowden and WikiLeaks of the surveillance programmes by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), efforts to keep data within national borders gained acceptance globally.

Ujam said that many countries now paid particular attention to data privacy issues and governments across the world had adopted stringent measures to ensure data sovereignty.

He explained that the Office of the Nigerian Content Development in ICT (ONC) was a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) established as a sustainable institutional framework to enforce compliance.

Ujam also recalled that the ONC hosted the first Annual Summit on Data Localisation in Nigeria, in collaboration with NITDA on Jan. 26, 2016 to ensure compliance with Article 14 the guidelines.

The Article addresses data and information management, mandating data and information management firms to host government data locally, a breach of which had been criminalised under the NITDA Act of 2007.

According to him, Data nationalism can be mandated by an Act of Parliament that explicitly requires data on citizens to be stored on servers physically located within national borders as stipulated in the NITDA Act.

“There is need to make data available for easy access in support of law enforcement and national security objectives with particular reference to the pervasive threats of terrorism/insurgency and kidnapping in the country

“Not only that Telecoms Operators storing data abroad is contrary to statutory provisions, some Telecoms Firms are relocating their Network Operation Centres to India.

“And their business activities remain in Nigeria, thereby exposing the citizens and the nation in general to security threats.

“Nigeria’s data security is in danger by such a development with grave implications on national security, as the centres would be monitored by foreigners from outside the shores of Nigeria,” he said.

In her contributions, Rep. Rita Orji (PDP-Lagos) said Nigerians were constantly complaining over foreigners managing bio data.

According to her, it is not done anywhere in the world except in Nigeria.

Also, Rep. Adamu Chika (APC-Niger) said that the motion was important for national security.

He said that prevention was better than cure as it was not safe to leave such critical information in the hands of foreigners.

The Speaker of the house, Mr Yakubu Dogara, mandated the Committee on Information Technology to ensure compliance.

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