National Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of the newly established Nigeria Data Protection Bureau (NDPB), Dr. Vincent Olatunji, is a prominent name in the information and Communications Technology, ICT sector.
Former Acting Director of NITDA, Olatunji cut his teeth on data governance, data privacy and protection; no wonder his appointment to the new Bureau.
Arguably his first one-on-one interview since he assumed office a few weeks ago, Olatunji gave Hi-Tech, the ohonour to be the first to know the circumstances that led to the creation of the bureau.
He also reveals the bureau’s plans towards revenue generation, boasting to grow the revenue base beyond N10b yearly. The interview is a no-holds-barred.
By Emmanuel Elebeke
You were recently appointed National Commissioner for National Data Regulatory Bureau, NDPB, can we share in your specific roles, mandate and focus?
It is important to lay the foundation of what led to the creation of the Bureau. Everything is going digital now and there is hardly anything you do without going online.
Following the re-designation of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy in 2019, the minister Dr Isa Pantami crafted the National Digital Economy and Strategy Policy, NDESP. To achieve that, needs additional legal framework to regulate the issue of data privacy in the country.
So, the National Data Protection Regulatory Policy, NDPR was established and there was an inter-agency committee to see to the implementation of the NDPR.
As the chair of the Committee, one of the major things we did that really brought us where we are today as a Bureau was to license Data Compliance Organizations, DCOs to assist different organizations comply to the provisions of the NDPR.
We started with the licensing of 15 DCOs, it was increased to 40 and to 70 and as at today, we have 103 DCOs in Nigeria.
The Bureau is tailored after the NDPR, which deals on peoples’ data and the rights of data subjects. With little efforts we have put in place in the last few years, and the modest achievements, we felt that it is important to have a Data Supervisory Authority in line with world best practice for Nigeria to be respected and counted among nation serious about digital economy.
As a bureau, we have duty to know what the duties of data processors and data controllers are doing and measures they must put in place to ensure that peoples’ data are protected.
Again, we need to let people know that when their data is breached, they have 72 hours to report to us for appropriate action to be taken.
We have advised DCOs to appoint Data Processing Officers, DPOs, who will advise management on the kind of measures to put in place in order to ensure safety of data in their custody.
What are the enabling laws backing your operation since you are not a creation of National Assembly?
The NDPR is in place and we want to make sure it is fully implemented to the letter. NDPR is a subsidiary legislation of NITDA Act of 2007, which is as powerful as NITDA’s Act. But then, globally, we need an Act of the Parliament, which is why we are going to push for a bill to the National Assembly to be passed as an Act of the Parliament in line with global best practice.
But that does not take away the fact that the President has the right to create agencies to fulfil some of his obligations, which is why he created the bureau.
Do you have power to penalize defaulters of your regulatory provisions?
Yes, we have the powers, we have done it before and we will continue to do it. In 2021, there was a data breach in one of the states and we wrote to the data controller and requested a report from them and resolved the issue. We can also impose fines and if a defaulter fails to pay, we can take the organization to court and the leadership of the organization can be jailed.
In the first audit report we got in 2020, we had 632 reports filed by different organizations and private companies processing people’s data and within one year, the number doubled to over 1200 reports. That shows there is traction, and underscores the need to increase awareness.
Do your operations cover Facebook, Twitter, yahoo and other social media access points?
Definitely, because I’m not sure of any social media platform that you won’t put in your data but if you check they have their private policies but if there’s a breach on the data they collected, definitely we’ll take them up. It happened with Truecaller.
How independent is this Bureau?
Although we are created out of NITDA, we are independent. However, we are under the supervision of the Minister of communications and Digital Economy.
Is the bureau going to be a revenue generator?
Definitely, it will get to the level of self sustenance. For instance, if you have 500,000 organizations filing their annual reports, imagine they are paying N10, 000 each for that, it would be N10billion.
Also, the DPO zones will pay fees to renew their licenses but it is something that will be convenient for everybody. But it is the volume that will determine the total revenue.
However, it is expected that the bureau will be funded for two years before the Bureau begins to sustain itself.
Data they say is the new oil, can you set a target of how much the bureau can generate this year?
That is true. I just quoted what we can generate from report filing alone, N10 billion in a year. The richest global brands, Amazon, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook generate their revenue through data. Even the value of crypto currency is more than the value of our oil in Nigeria and that’s just a part of it. Some countries have legalized it while some are saying no, some are keeping quiet.
You are an integral part of the Digital Economy; to what extent will you say Nigeria has made progress in this aspiration?
From the last GDP report published by the NBS, the sector contributed the highest, 17.3 percent, above other sectors of the economy. The pillars in national Digital Economy and Strategy Policy, NDESP, regulation are number one, which is a major developmental concept.
We have done much in terms of value addition, job creation, saving of funds and international recognition. For the NDPB to be pulled out of NITDA, speaks volumes of what the sector is doing. Even at the level of FEC, there is a National Policy on Virtual FEC Meeting, which has save lots of money for the country.
In the area of broadband penetration, a new policy has been put in place from 2022-2025 with a target of 77 per cent broadband penetration.
In terms of Right of Way, with the minister’s intervention, it has been reduced to N45 per linear meter from N145, 000; sometimes some states offer it free of charge.
Now all ICT infrastructures have been declared Critical National Infrastructure. These are things we need to put together to realize that Digital Economy has made a lot of impact in Nigeria. All these are intangibles, capacity building has been ongoing across the country, and the Ease of Doing Business has improved as well.
The global digital economy worth over $11.5 trillion and we are trying to tap into it so that our citizens will benefit. Over 4 million Nigerians go online daily, we need to take our turn in that trillions dollar economy. A lot of talents in Nigerians, especially in digital ecosystem are doing amazing things on internet. They need to be encouraged.