Industry Insights

Navigating Data Privacy Regulations in Nigeria: What Businesses Need to Know


Abraham Tanta

Sat Feb 17 2024

Data breaches are a growing threat in Nigeria. In the first quarter of 2023 alone, over 82,000 accounts were exposed, underscoring the alarming frequency of security incidents. From the Jobberman leak of 2019, where millions of job seekers' personal information was compromised, to the more recent Interswitch breach that potentially exposed sensitive banking data, it's clear that no business is immune.

The consequences of these data breaches are devastating. Beyond hefty fines, businesses face long-term damage to their reputation and customer trust. In today's digital landscape, data privacy isn't just a legal obligation; it's crucial for building consumer confidence and safeguarding your company's success. This blog post serves as your comprehensive guide to Nigeria's data privacy landscape, providing clear explanations, actionable compliance steps, and strategies to protect your business and customers.

Key Legislation

  • Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) 2019: This is the cornerstone of data privacy in Nigeria. Issued by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the NDPR sets overarching principles and rules for how businesses should handle personal data.
  • Nigeria Data Protection Act (NDPA) 2023: Still relatively new, the NDPA supplements the NDPR, outlining provisions for establishing a new governing body and providing more in-depth regulatory specifications. Importantly, it clarifies some of the aspects that were outlined generally within the NDPR.

Nigeria's commitment to safeguarding personal data is enshrined in two primary pieces of legislation: the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) 2019 and the recently enacted Nigeria Data Protection Act (NDPA) 2023. While there's some overlap, it's essential for businesses to familiarize themselves with both.

What Do These Laws Mean for Your Business?

Let's break down the key elements of the NDPR and NDPA that directly impact how you collect, store, and use personal data:

      • Respect Individual Rights: The NDPR and NDPA establish robust rights for individuals. You must be prepared to respond to requests for access to their data, provide copies, allow corrections, and sometimes even delete their data ("right to be forgotten").
      • Security is Paramount: Implementing strong technical safeguards (encryption, firewalls) and organizational measures (robust policies, training) is a mandate, not an option. In the event of a data breach, swift notification to relevant authorities (usually within 72 hours) is mandatory.

        Staying Ahead of the Curve

        Nigeria's data privacy landscape continues to evolve. This overview offers a crucial foundation. Businesses must proactively monitor updates and new guidelines from the regulatory authorities to ensure ongoing compliance and prioritize safeguarding their customers' data.

        Key Principles & Rights: Protecting the Heart of Data Privacy

        Nigeria's data protection laws place strong emphasis on fundamental principles that guide how businesses handle personal data. Embracing these principles results in the practical empowerment of individuals through a clearly defined set of rights:

        1. Consent: The Bedrock of Trust

        Unless another lawful basis exists, processing personal data often requires clear, informed, and specific consent from the individual. Vague statements or pre-ticked checkboxes won't cut it! Consider this example:

        • Your business operates an e-commerce store. While customers need to provide an email address to create an account, collecting that same email for marketing newsletters requires separate and explicit consent.

        2. Data Minimization: Collect Only What You Need

        The guiding principle should be "less is more." Limit your data collection to what is strictly necessary for a specific, legitimate purpose. Here's how this translates into practice:

        • An online bookstore selling novels likely needs the reader's name, shipping address, and payment details. Collecting additional information, such as their birthdate or browsing history beyond purchase data, may violate this principle.=

        3. Transparency: Shining a Light on Data Practices

        Be open and honest with individuals about your data practices. The following measures provide clarity and build trust:

        • Privacy Policies: Craft a clear, concise privacy policy, readily accessible on your website, explaining what data you collect, how it's used, and with whom it might be shared. Avoid convoluted legal jargon, aiming for everyday language.
        • Just-in-Time Notice: Whenever possible, provide specific explanations within context - for example, a pop-up clarifying collected data while browsing a certain section of your website.

        4. Data Subject Rights: Putting Individuals in Control

        The NDPR and NDPA enshrine a robust set of rights that individuals hold over their own personal data. Here's a key summary businesses must keep in mind:

        • Right of Access: People can request confirmation if you hold their data, request to view it, and understand how you process it.
        • Right to Rectification: Address inaccuracies or incomplete data promptly based on the individual's request.
        • Right to Erasure ("Right to be Forgotten"): While not absolute, this right allows individuals to request deletion of their data in specific circumstances.
        • Right to Restrict Processing: In certain cases, individuals can limit how you use their data, even if consent was initially granted.
        • Right to Data Portability: Upon request, you may need to provide their data in a commonly used format to facilitate the transfer to another provider.
        • Right to Object: Individuals can opt out of specific uses of their data, particularly direct marketing purposes.

        Bringing it All Together: Practical Steps for Businesses

        • Data Mapping: Create a comprehensive record of what personal data flows through your business, its source, storage locations, and sharing with third parties.
        • Privacy by Design: Embed data protection principles at all stages of product/service development.
        • Revisit Forms and Procedures: Update consent forms to be specific and ensure you can track who opted in to what uses.
        • Establish Complaint/Request Handling: Document the process for handling and responding to individuals exercising their rights within prescribed timeframes.
        • Data Mapping: Create a comprehensive record of what personal data flows through your business, its source, storage locations, and sharing with third parties.
        • Privacy by Design: Embed data protection principles at all stages of product/service development.
        • Revisit Forms and Procedures: Update consent forms to be specific and ensure you can track who opted in to what uses.
        • Establish Complaint/Request Handling: Document the process for handling and responding to individuals exercising their rights within prescribed timeframes.

        Important Note: Data protection laws recognize potential exceptions, sometimes allowing retention or limited access when required. Understanding these specific scenarios and being able to justify compliance decisions is crucial.

        Steps for Compliance: Your Roadmap to Data Protection

        Understanding the theoretical foundations of data privacy is essential, but true protection relies on proactive implementation. Let's outline the tangible actions businesses must take to achieve and maintain effective compliance.

        1. Appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO)

        Who needs one? Organizations falling under specific thresholds outlined in the NDPR and NDPA mandates having a DPO. Factors include the volume of personal data processed, the sensitivity of the data, and overall corporate activities.

        A Guardian of Compliance: Your DPO is the internal data privacy champion. They monitor practices, offer expert advice, liaise with authorities, and support individuals exercising their data rights.

        Internal or External: The DPO's expertise is paramount. This role can be fulfilled by a qualified employee or even an outsourced, accredited service provider.

        2. Conduct a Data Audit

        • Know Your Data Landscape: Map out what personal data flows through every aspect of your business. Examine where it lives (hard drives, cloud services, physical files), who has access to it, and how it moves within your internal processes.
        • Template Tools: Data audits can be simplified using templates that standardize information-gathering throughout various company departments. This creates a comprehensive overview.

        3. Crafting Privacy Policies and Notices

        • Transparency in Action: A clear and accessible privacy policy is integral to building trust. Your policy must outline what data you collect, why you process it, data subject rights, data security measures, and contact information for your company's DPO (if applicable).
        • Contextual Notices: Add concise explanations where it matters- at signup forms, within apps when collecting specific data, etc. These complement your broader privacy policy.

        4. Secure Data Handling Procedures

        • Technical Safeguards: Robust safeguards are non-negotiable. Prioritize encryption technology (for stored and transmitted data), strong access controls, firewalls, network security, and regular patching to address vulnerabilities.
        • Organizational Measures: Invest in clear policies regarding physical and digital data handling. Develop a detailed Incident Response Plan outlining steps to take in a suspected data breach, including identification, containment, and mandatory notifications.

        5. Ongoing Staff Training and Awareness

        • Human Factor: Every employee is a link in your data protection chain. Comprehensive training ensures a company-wide culture of privacy compliance, from executives to frontline personnel. Regular refreshers are key.
        • Topics to cover: Employees should understand your data policies, legal responsibilities under the NDPR/NDPA, recognize potential threats (phishing, etc.), and know how to respond to suspected breaches.

        Compliance is a Journey, Not a Destination

        Stay alert! Data privacy remains a dynamic field. Businesses must regularly review policies, re-evaluate technological safeguards, and stay informed about any updates or new guidelines from regulatory bodies. This proactive approach assures continued protection for both your business and its customers. Additional Considerations

        Businesses operating in today's interconnected world must be increasingly mindful of data protection practices beyond their immediate borders and industry sector:

        Cross-border Data Transfers: The NDPR and NDPA establish rules for transferring personal data outside of Nigeria. If your business sends data to cloud-based services, works with multinational clients, or has partners abroad, be aware of the following factors:

        • Does the destination country ensure an adequate level of data protection?
        • What legal safeguards (contracts, standard clauses, etc.) are utilized when transferring data internationally?

        Industry-Specific Requirements: Certain sectors in Nigeria are governed by additional data protection regulations. Examples include:

        • Finance: The financial sector faces stricter obligations surrounding sensitive financial information, transaction histories, and more.
        • Healthcare: Extra security measures and potentially more rigorous consent rules typically apply to patient records, sensitive medical data, and biometric information.

        While a complete explanation of these specialized laws is beyond the scope of this post, businesses operating in sensitive industries should familiarize themselves with additional guidelines published by relevant regulatory bodies.


        In today's digital economy, safeguarding data privacy isn't merely about ticking compliance boxes; it's foundational to building customer trust and sustaining success. Companies that disregard these regulations not only face legal and financial repercussions but also irreversibly damage their reputation and erode hard-earned consumer confidence.

        Call to Action

        Don't leave your business vulnerable! Contact us at Tanta Innovative for a comprehensive data privacy audit. Our consultants will assess your current practices, identify potential risk areas, and provide solutions tailored to your business needs. Take proactive steps to stay ahead of the compliance curve and protect your customers' valuable data.

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