Court Adjourns Hearing to September 24 in Publisher’s FOI Suit over Shippers’ Council’s Failure to Disclose Details of Data Protection Policies

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Mr. Owolabi Dawodu,
Member of Media Rights Agenda’s Network of Lawyers

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has adjourned hearing to September 24, 2024, in a suit filed by the publisher of the online newspaper, BONews, Ms Blessing Oladunjoye, against the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) over its refusal to disclose the information she requested under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011, regarding the Council’s data protection policies.

The legal action was initiated after Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, Director General/CEO of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), signed the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) in January 2019 under the NITDA Act. Section 4.1(1) of the Act mandates all Nigerian organizations controlling personal data to publicly disclose their data protection policies within three months of the regulations’ issuance. In response, Ms. Oladunjoye submitted a Freedom of Information request to the institution on October 26, 2020, in accordance to the provisions of the FOI Act, 2011. NSC did not avail her the information she requested.

In the suit filed on December 3, 2020, by Mr. Owolabi Dawodu, a Lagos-based lawyer and member of Media Rights Agenda’s network of lawyers, on behalf of Ms. Oladunjoye against NSC and the Director-General of the institution, the publisher is asking the court to declare that the failure and/or refusal by the institution to grant her access to the information she requested in her letter dated October 26, 2020 is a violation of her right of access to information established and guaranteed by Sections 1(1) and 4 of the FOI Act.

She also asked the court for an order compelling NSC to disclose or make available to her the information, which she had requested in her letter, namely:
• Copies of all data protection policies of NSC, issued in conformity with the NDPR 2019;
• The name and contact details of the Data Protection Officer of NSC, designated in accordance with the NDPR 2019, together with the institution’s relevant data privacy instruments and data protection directives;
• Details of all capacity building training or other capacity building activities undertaken for the Data Protection Officer of NSC and other personnel of the institution involved in any form of data processing since the issuance of the NDPR 2019;
• The number of persons or individuals whose personal data NSC processes on an annual basis, that is over a period of 12 months.
• A report from a detailed audit conducted by NSC of its privacy and data protection practices in accordance with the NDPR 2019, containing the following information:
• the personally identifiable information that NSC collects on its employees and members of the public;
• the purpose for which the personally identifiable information is collected;
• copies of any and all notices given to individuals regarding the collection and use of their personal information;
• details of any access or opportunities given to individuals to review, amend, correct, supplement, or delete their personal information collected or held by NSC;
• information on whether or not consent is obtained from an individual before personally identifiable information is collected, used, transferred, or disclosed and details of any method used to obtain consent;
• copies of the policies of NSC and details of its practices for ensuring the security of personally identifiable information;
• copies of the policies of NSC and details of its practices for the proper use of personally identifiable information;
• copies of NSC’s policies and details of its procedures for privacy and data protection;
• copies of NSC’s policies and details of its procedures for monitoring and reporting violations of privacy and data protection policies; and
• copies of NSC’s policies and details of its procedures for assessing the impact of technologies on its stated privacy and security policies.

Other reliefs sought by Ms Oladunjoye included an order directing NSC and its executive secretary to pay to her the sum of One Million Naira (₦1,000,000.00) only as exemplary and aggravated damages for the flagrant and unlawful violation of her right of access to information and the wrongful denial of the information.

On April 17, 2024, during the proceedings at the Federal High Court presided over by Justice Chukwujekwu Joseph Aneke, Ms. Oladunjoye, represented by Mr. Monday Arunsi, Esq., was directed to serve a hearing notice on the NSC and its executive secretary who were not only absent but had no legal representation in Court. He thereafter adjourned to September 24, 2024 for hearing and adoption of the filed processes in the suit.