I’m pretty sure most of us want some level of privacy in our lives. We show this in a lot of different ways. You know, leaving the bedroom, the office enclosure, ‘stepping aside for a minute’ – just to take or make that call. We’ve not forgotten text messages too. We encrypt, delete and implement all sorts of security measures just to keep our privacy intact. In fact, section 37 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) wants that to happen. How? “The privacy of citizens, their… correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected.” But let’s see why you’d want to be careful with the content of your communication in your daily interactions.
In the spate of recent national security issues currently facing the country, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has activated some of the provisions of its enabling Act – the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003. Section 146(1) provides that “a licensee (you could think of it as referring to any network/service provider) shall use his best endeavour to prevent the network facilities that he owns or provides or the network service, applications service or content application service that he provides from being used in, or in relation to, the commission of any offence under any law in operation in Nigeria.” Subsection (2) further provides that upon a written request by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) or any other authority such a licensee shall assist in preventing the commission or attempted commission of an offence in the preservation of national security amongst other things.
At first brush, we can immediately see that the above provisions act somewhat like adverbs to verbs. Indeed Section 147 of the NCA further allows the Commission to instruct any licensee(s) to implement the capability to allow authorized interception of communications as well as the technical requirements involved.
On the strength of the provisions as considered, the NCC recently released a draft regulation styled “Lawful Interception of Communications Regulations.” A quick look at the scope and objectives of the regulations reveal that it would be focusing on:
a. Providing the legal and regulatory framework for the lawful interception of communications in Nigeria;
b. Specifying the nature and types of communications to be intercepted;
c. Prescribing penalties for non-compliance with these regulations;
d. Providing a notification procedure to the Commission of all Warrants issued, amended, renewed or cancelled under these regulations; and
e. Ensuring the privacy of subscribers as contained in the Constitution.
There are many other things we might want to know about these regulations and the level of protection implemented to ensure that our communications are not unjustly intercepted. This would be the focus of our discussion next week. Please make it a date.