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Interrogating Babalola’s privacy and data protection law in Nigeria

By ‘Kemi Pinheiro
23 April 2023   |   4:00 am
At a first glance into the book, one will observe the author was deliberate about creating a pleasurable reading experience for his readers. From the wonderful choice of font-text used – Georgia, with a unique size 12 and adequate spacing...

At a first glance into the book, one will observe the author was deliberate about creating a pleasurable reading experience for his readers. From the wonderful choice of font-text used – Georgia, with a unique size 12 and adequate spacing, it appeared the author had all readers in mind, including those who belong to the “four-eyes” category such as myself.

Having comprehensively perused this book on ‘privacy and data protection’, I must confess that on one hand I am faced with the issue of not revealing so much about this impressive book, so as not be liable for any data breach whatsoever as there is a need to ‘protect the data’; while on the other hand, I am faced with the challenge every reviewer of any book will encounter, which is “how can I do justice to such a book in just a thousand words?”

This book of 264 pages opens with a preface by the learned author himself and a table of contents. The book is divided into five main parts, which is further sub-divided into 22 chapters with each addressing critical issues of Privacy and Data Protection.

Part I of the Book, which titles ‘Privacy’ consists of chapters one, two, three, four and five. Chapter one opens the book with diverse scholarly and erudite definitions of ‘Privacy’ which may be considered enlightening, as it discloses different perspectives one may never have attributed to the subject matter.

One definition, among other insightful ones that caught my fancy will be that of Holvast who defines Privacy as the ‘a right to be let alone and a right of each individual to determine under ordinary circumstances, what his or her thoughts, sentiments and emotions shall be when in communication with others.’

The second chapter goes on to shed light on the different categories of privacy, 20 classes, which it meticulously discusses under the topic ‘Taxonomy and Typology of Privacy’. I find it quite fascinating that there exist such diverse categories of the subject matter.

Chapter three is titled, ‘Right to Privacy in Nigeria.’ This chapter reveals the reality of the concept of privacy in Nigeria, and the cultural restriction on the practicality of privacy in the face of the African society’s communal setting.

Chapter four presents us with a detailed historical journey on the evolution of privacy through the lens of different regions, alluring to non-Nigerians and effectively giving the book an international flavour. It addresses privacy as a tort, and interestingly reveals how jurisdictions that refused to enact laws with regards to privacy as an independent cause of action, have included it under other existing causes of action and remedies (reference to page 43 of the book).

Chapter five addresses the concept of privacy and its nexus with fundamental right. It draws to light how the right to privacy has been included in a number of fundamental right instruments, one of which is the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), with reference to Section 37. We are presented with over 14 (fourteen) cases where the issue of privacy as a fundamental right was addressed from diverse perspectives by the courts of different jurisdictions. I appreciate the Nigerian choice cases of Emerging

Markets Telecommunication Services v. Eneye (cited at page 57 of the book), where the court held that the telecommunication company shared the subscriber’s personal telephone number with third parties without his consent and that, the spam text messages received from such entities constituted an infringement”; Uwaifo v. Attorney General of Bendel State (citation supplied in the book); Akintokun v. Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (citation supplied in the book), inter alia.

I observed that the author has brilliantly navigated the distinction between privacy in the common sense of private and family life as used in the Nigerian Constitution and other Nigerian literatures from privacy in relation to data protection.

In introducing the novel concept of privacy and data protection, part I of this book uses the generic view of privacy as an introduction to the main theme of data protection in this book. I consider the author highly intelligent for adopting this technique to accommodate and patiently introduce the concept of data protection to an unlearned mind.

Part II of the Book, which is titled, ‘Data Protection’ consists of chapter six, seven and eight.

The “Evolution of data protection in Nigeria” is discussed in chapter six. This identifies the development of law on data protection in Nigeria, the various existing sectorial laws on data protection, and the attempts, albeit unsuccessful, to enact a principal law on data protection. It further places emphasis on the need for our dear Nation to do so.

Chapter seven discusses the various sources of data protection in Nigeria. It examines the legal framework for data protection both domestic and internationally. It makes it apparent that while there is not an all-inclusive legislation on the subject matter in Nigeria, as earlier noted, some other members of the international community at large also share the same predicament. It further identifies the various laws, though limited, on which reliance is placed on the issues of data protection.

The eight chapter deals with the relationship between data protection and other rights. It emphasises the role of other rights and freedom in the understanding and enjoyment of data protection rights.

Prior to this chapter, the issue of drawing a distinction between the right to privacy and data protection was raised. However, this chapter properly addresses this issue, identifies the relationship between these two concepts, their similarities, points of difference and areas where they overlap.

Data protection is also examined alongside other rights, such as freedom of information, freedom of expression, right to human dignity and one I find most interesting, the relationship between data protection and intellectual property rights.

• Dr. Pinheiro is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and Fellow of Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (FCIArb).