The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) on Monday issued new regulations for Internet platforms available in Nigeria.
A statement signed by NITDA spokesperson, Hadiza Umar, said the new code was designed to protect the “fundamental human rights of Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in the country as well as define guidelines for interacting on the digital ecosystem.”
The code requires Internet platforms to “register with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and appoint a designated country representative to interface with Nigerian authorities.”
It also requires that they comply with all regulatory demands and comply with all applicable tax obligations on its operations under Nigerian law.
On content moderation, NITDA said Internet platforms must “provide a comprehensive compliance mechanism to avoid publication of prohibited contents and unethical behaviour on their platform.”
They must also “provide information to authorities on harmful accounts, suspected botnets, troll groups, and other coordinated disinformation networks and deleting any information that violates Nigerian law within an agreed time.”
NITDA said the new rules were “developed in collaboration with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), as well as input from Interactive Computer Service Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Google, and Tik Tok amongst others.
“Other relevant stakeholders with peculiar knowledge in this area were consulted such as Civil Society Organizations and expert groups. The results of this consultations were duly incorporated into the Draft Code of Practice.”
The draft Code of Practice notes that Internet platforms must promptly obey court orders directing it to provide “information under its domain or any assistance to any authorised government.”
It is not yet clear how the new rules will be implemented.
Nigeria suspended Twitter in June 2021 for several months after the social media network deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Buhari administration has sought to pass more stringent laws regulating Internet platforms, especially social media networks.
On Sunday, the union said it is angered by the Federal Government’s claim that the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), developed to replace the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) did not pass tests.
“However, in a curious twist of submission, the NITDA Technical Team, after conducting a comprehensive functionality test came out to say that out of 687 test cases, 529 cases were satisfactory, 156 cases queried, and two cases were cautioned,” the union said.
“Taking this report on its face value, the percentage score is 77%. The question that arises from this is, can 77% in any known fair evaluation system be categorised as failure?”
The latest round of strikes followed ASUU’s grievances with the Federal Government over its handling of a 2020 agreement it reached with the union.
While government and ASUU officials have had a series of meetings in the wake of the industrial action, they have been accusations and counter-accusations as both parties failed to reach an agreement.
Irked by the incessant strikes, students protested across the nation, demanding the reopening of varsity campuses. They accused ASUU and the Federal Government of insensitivity, saying they are the most affected by the situation.
A meeting between the Education Minister, Adamu Adamu, and officials of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) ended in deadlock.
This year’s strike comes about one year after ASUU ended a nine-month strike.
In January, WhatsApp, the messaging app marketed on a reputation for privacy and used by millions of Nigerians, started to ask its users to agree to share their personal data with Facebook or have their accounts deleted by February 8. (WhatsApp has been sharing data with Facebook since 2016)
The announcement generated backlash and many users threatened to stop using the app and find alternatives, such as Signal and Telegram.
WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, buckled for a second and postponed its February deadline to May 15.
In a blog post explaining the rationale for the postponement, WhatsApp said its update had been misunderstood.
“WhatsApp was built on a simple idea: what you share with your friends and family stays between you,” the post read. “This means we will always protect your personal conversations with end-to-end encryption, so that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see these private messages.
“It’s why we don’t keep logs of who everyone’s messaging or calling. We also can’t see your shared location and we don’t share your contacts with Facebook.”
The company said the new update only affected “optional business features on WhatsApp” and “does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook.”
Later, WhatsApp said people who do not agree to the new update will not “have their accounts deleted or lose functionality of WhatsApp on May 15.”
Instead, the app will continue to remind them and, “after a period of several weeks, the reminder people receive will eventually become persistent.”
Once a user starts receiving persistent messages, they will also experience limited functionality – being unable to access your chat list, for example – until they accept the terms.
After a few weeks of limited functionality, users who still do not accept will be unable “to receive incoming calls or notifications and WhatsApp will stop sending messages and calls to your phone.”
On May 17, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) said it was engaging Facebook on the new policy and “exploring all options to ensure Nigerians do not become victims of digital colonialism.
“Our national security, dignity and individual privacy are cherished considerations we must not lose.”
One of NITDA’s concerns is that the new update is only applicable outside Europe, which is protected by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
On May 21, the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, headed by Dr Isa Pantami, said it was aware of the WhatsApp update and was backing NITDA’s engagement with Facebook.
However, Samuel Ngwu, a data privacy commentator, believes NITDA’s response to the WhatsApp update was belated and inadequate. The policy took effect on May 15 and NITDA’s statement only surfaced two days later.
“The entire reactive approach is inconsistent with NITDA’s own recognition of data privacy and protection being serious national issues,” Ngwu said. “Clearly regulatory nimbleness and proactivity cannot be over-emphasised in the data privacy space.”
According to NITDA, Facebook collects the following information on its users: account information, messages, including undelivered messages and forwarded; (important to note that WhatsApp says it does not store messages on its servers, except for undelivered messages, which are kept for a month before they are deleted. Also, WhatsApp has stressed that it is unable to read users’ messages as they are encrypted end-to-end); status information; transactions and payments data, usage and log information, location information; cookies; etc.
Other information collected by WhatsApp include: battery level; signal strength; app version; browser information; mobile network; connection information (including phone number, mobile operator or ISP), language and time zone; Internet Protocol address; device operations information; social media identifiers.
According to NITDA, WhatsApp shares the following information with Facebook: Account registration information; details on how users interact with others; mobile device information; Internet Protocol address; location data.
While it continues to engage with Facebook, NITDA said Nigerians should be aware that there are alternatives to WhatsApp in the country and advised citizens to “limit the sharing of sensitive personal information on private messaging and social media platforms as the initial promise of privacy and security is now being overridden on the basis of business exigency.”
NITDA, which is the regulator of Nigeria’s Information Technology sector, has also hinted that it is looking to create its own WhatsApp.
“We shall work with the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy,” it said in its May 17 statement, signed by its spokesperson, Hadiza Umar, “to organise a hackathon for Nigerians to pitch solutions that can provide services that will provide functional alternatives to existing global social platforms.”
When Channels Television reached out to WhatsApp for comment, a spokesperson reiterated that “the privacy and security of personal chats with family and friends are not changing. Personal messages continue to be protected by end-to-end encryption.”
But messages sent to business accounts may be subject to further analysis for commercial considerations.
“Neither WhatsApp or Facebook can make use of this content for their own purpose,” the WhatsApp spokesperson said when asked whether the company can analyse the content of these ‘business messages’.
“They can only process it at the instruction of the business. Similar services are already offered by a number of other providers today such as Twilio, Zendesk or MessengerPeople.”
Still, Ngwu, the data privacy expert, told Channels Television that Nigerians who use WhatsApp should be wary as Facebook has a track-record of breaching its users’ personal data, as in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. “WhatsApp has said the update only affects optional business features,” Ngwu said, “but Nigerians should be worried.”
According to President Buhari, the Digital Economy is globally expanding at a very fast pace and has transitioned from being a luxury to an absolute necessity.
“It is in recognition of this fact that we decided to re-designate the Federal Ministry of Communications as the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy with a mandate to develop and implement a harmonised and well-coordinated digital economy policy and strategy for Nigeria,” he said.
The conference, which is the 12th edition this year, is Nigeria’s annual Information Technology (IT) summit hosted by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
Other dignitaries at the event include Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami; Director-General, NITDA Kashifu Abdullahi; Senator Oluremi Tinubu, and Representative of Speaker, Honourable Lado.
Organisers believe that the two-day event which attracts global participation will unlock the country’s potential in the virtual economy.
Former staff of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) have dragged the agency to the National Industrial Court for allegedly terminating their employment, less than a year after they were employed.
The defendants who are 245, in their motion on notice, said that they were proffered letters of employment in December 2016 and while they awaited their posting, an advertisement in a national newspaper claimed that their employment had been cancelled because the process that led to their employment had been cancelled.
They alleged that the said advertisement did not disclose the reason for the cancellation of their employment.
As such they are asking the court for an order declaring the said advertisement as null, void and of no effect.
They also asked the court to declare that all the claimants recruited by the agency in December 2015 are entitled to all the rights, privileges, salaries and emoluments.
They also asked the court to award the sum of 500 million naira as damages against the agency.