NIN violates constitutional rights to privacy, says HURIWA


Prominent civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has expressed consternation regarding the idea behind the introduction by the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy of the National Identification Number (NIN), saying the explanation made by the Minister in Paris, France shows that the federal government has plans to spy on the citizens.

HURIWA recalled that the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, had said the National Identification Number will enable the Federal Government and security agencies to know the identity of Internet users in the country. This is as he stated that NIN will be the foundation of the economy and the security of the country.

HURIWA also recalled that Pantami said this during the Nigeria International Partnership Forum in Paris, France. He said, “Some of these initiatives that happen to be the foundation of even our economy is the introduction of the national identification number. Nigeria has joined the global community by making the use of national identification numbers for both citizens and legal residents mandatory.”

“This is going to be the foundation of our economy and also the foundation of our security that whoever happens to go online, his identity will be known by the federal government and also by our security institution.

HURIWA in a media statement by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf condemned the Minister and the Central government for seeking the demolition of the core essence of constitutional democracy which is the Right to privacy.

Besides, HURIWA has decided to proceed to the court of law to seek the appropriate quashing of the NIN Policy which interferes with the citizens’ enjoyment of their constitutional right to privacy.

“HURIWA understands that right to privacy is at the core of our constitutional democracy. Pursuant to section 37 of the Constitution, the right to privacy is recognized as a fundamental right in the following words: The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected.”

“In Griswold, the Supreme Court found a right to privacy, derived from penumbras of other explicitly stated constitutional protections. The Court used the personal protections expressly stated in the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth Amendments to find that there is an implied right to privacy in the Constitution. The right to privacy covers a wide range of issues such as confidential correspondence, email and internet use, medical history, personal data, eavesdropping, sexual orientation and personal lifestyles.

According to Solove, there are six components of privacy: [1] personal autonomy; [2] limited access to the self; [3] confidentiality; [4] the management of personal information; [5] the right of individuality; and [6] relationship. In sieving from these elements, it seems clear that privacy is only important when it seeks to protect the rights of an individual which he/she intends to keep private i.e. that is events that are not meant to be within the domain of the public. Therefore, it seems correct to argue that activities that an individual does not want to protect from the public purview or from the society that he/she lives in would be deemed as acts that are not covered by the right of privacy. Simply put, the right of privacy is considered as any activities that are intended to be excluded from the knowledge of others.  Solove further argues that”.

HURIWA affirmed that: “The value of privacy must be determined on the basis of its importance to society, not in terms of individual rights. Moreover, privacy does not have a universal value that is the same across all contexts. The value of privacy in a particular context depends upon the social importance of the activities that it facilitates.

The right of privacy implies the exclusion of the public eye from prying into an individual’s affair. Another crucial aspect of the right to privacy entails the right to protect one’s image and personality and to have unfettered access to control one’s zones of exclusivity, space and confidential information. The right to privacy lies within the realm of self-ownership. It is the moral liberty of doing what an individual deems fit to be down with his/her individualism and keeping others outside the sphere of his/her self-ownership”

“The right to privacy is one of the fundamental human rights entrenched in the Nigerian Constitution. Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution provides that: “The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected.”

“The entrenchment of this right in the Constitution is very important as seen in Section 37 of the Constitution guarantees the right of every person to his home and correspondence. Homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications of individuals are protected under this section and are inviolable. The court in Ezeadukwa v. Maduka affirmed this view. By virtue of this, it is illegal and unconstitutional for the police or any other security official to search any person’s residence without a lawful warrant, they have no right to search any individual’s body on the road, seize and search a person’s telephone etc. To invade a person’s home or correspondence, the authorities must obtain a warrant. It is unconstitutional to carry out surveillance activities in and around a person’s home or over his telephone and other correspondences except such is justifiable under section 45 of the 1999 Constitution. The eviction of families and individuals from their homes has been held to amount to a violation of this right also in the case of Okkoro- Owo & ors V. Lagos State Governments & Ors.”