The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, who spoke through a statement by his Technical Assistant on IT, Femi Adeluyi, on Friday, said the government would ensure the protection of personal information.
Pantami explained that he had received reports of devious schemes perpetrated by some unscrupulous persons who claimed to have access to private data such as SIM databases, bank verification numbers and other personal records.
The Federal Government has said the use of personal data of Nigerians in the campaign against the outbreak of the COVID – 19 disease in the country must comply with laid down regulations.
The Federal Government also advised Nigerians to disregard attempts by any group or individuals seeking to confirm or collect their personal records for any purpose.
The government’s use of the personal data of citizens to prevent criminal activities has also raised concerns among stakeholders.
However, Pantami said the Federal Government never directed that any such database be shared with any person for any purpose other than the legitimate, statutory purpose they were collected for.
He said, “The public is therefore urged to disregard any information from any group or individuals seeking to confirm or collect personal records for any purpose.
“The Federal Government will never ask citizens to confirm their records via phone calls or digital means without an elaborate structure to ensure the safety of these records and effective communication to the public in this regard.”
Pantami said he had directed the National Information Technology Development Agency, the custodian of the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation, to develop a comprehensive framework to guide relevant institutions on lawful processing of personal data for public health, welfare, security and related matters.
He added that the government was aware of concerns over possible privacy infringement in the use of private data to combat COVID-19.
The minister said, “Government’s ultimate purpose in its fight against COVID-19 is to minimise direct collateral damages.”
“In the face of the threat to life arising from public health, hunger and security factors, Nigeria, like every progressive society, is utilising its digital assets and infrastructure to tackle the pandemic and its effects.
“Every use of private data is strictly for the promotion of the security and welfare of Nigerians.”
He stressed that any unlawful disclosure, abuse or misuse of private data constituted a criminal offence, punishable under the laws of Nigeria.
He urged all institutions that utilise personal data for public purposes to prioritise information and cyber security.
“Compliance with the NDPR and other laws relating to personal data processing is mandatory for public and private organisations,” Pantami said.
He added that all data controlling organisations were to provide means for efficient public communication across all available platforms to respond to public enquiries and comments throughout the lockdown period.