Minister: Only security institutions can access people’s phone data

Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami

Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, says security institutions are the only legally recognised agents in Nigeria who can gain access to people’s personal phone information.

Pantami spoke on Tuesday while unveiling the Nigerian Communications Commission’s Strategic Vision Plan (2021-2025), NCC Global Connect Podcast and a Compendium of speeches by the Executive Vice Chairman of the commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta, in Abuja.

“It is only the security institutions that have power and access to people’s lines; we do not have such power, if not, it will be abused. It will be wrong for anybody to contact NCC or ministry to provide data of any subscriber”, he said,

Emphasising the role of the ministry in this regard, Pantami said, “Ours is when we are contacted that we will provide to the security agencies the data they need. Even when we are contacted, there are requirements constitutionally to do that because telephone conversations are meant to be confidential as stipulated by section 37 subsection 39 of the constitution.

“The Cybercrime Act 2015 and the subsidiary legislation of the commission allow the government to give such approval when a crime is committed after the security agencies established a prima-facie case, then it can be conveyed to the relevant institution.”

He further stated that there were some successes in this aspect while emphasising the need to ensure the security of the country.

The minister said, “I can tell you that many successes have been recorded but not meant for public consumption. Today, criminals usually block highways and use the phones of victims to contact their families. There are a lot of things the sector has been doing to support the stability and security of the nation.

“I am clarifying this because I am being confronted with so many questions and citizens need to understand that we have procedures and it is only when the procedures are respected that we are mandated to provide data.

“Sometimes, security institutions can gain access without confronting us because Mr President has approved that for security institutions to gain access to people information without confronting us make their work much easier than they would have access to many things than when they contact NCC or operators.

“At any point in time, in the telecom sector, our position is security takes precedence over economic gains, but if two things must be pursued, this is our priority.”

However, Pantami further said that in line with the new proposed draft regulations on registration of telephone subscribers 2021, only an official not below the rank of an Assistant Commissioner of Police or a co-ordinate rank in any other security agency could request for a subscriber’s information.

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