(Opinion): Unmasking Senator Saliu Mustapha’s Data Breach: A Demand for Answers – Atunde Ahmed

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By Atunde Olarewaju Ahmad

Leading by example has always been the opposite of the principle by which Nigerian politicians operate. Following the recent convocation of graduates by the University of Ilorin, many of the graduates and alumna of the university came to know of an infringement on our data rights. Senator Saliu Mustapha, representing Kwara Central, sent an unsolicited broadcast message in which he congratulated the recent graduates. The message has ignited a firestorm of outrage and indignation among recent graduates from the University of Ilorin.

Since the messages broke out, there have been questions left unanswered, and one of them is “Where did Senator Mustapha or his agents get our data, and by what authority?” This is not only a breach of data privacy but also a challenge to the fundamental rights of the Nigerian people. It is a breach of trust on the part of the university if the management is unable to unlink itself from this case of right infringement.

Today’s world is being dominated by the use of digital tools, and as such, the talk of data privacy is not the talk of stand-up comedians; it is an unequivocal right. Safeguarding the personal information of individuals is not just a moral imperative but also a legal obligation for public officials. It is a right guaranteed by the Nigerian Data Protection Act. According to KPMG Nigeria, the overall objective of the act is to safeguard the fundamental rights and freedoms and the interests of data subjects as enshrined in the Constitution of Nigeria. It will not come as a surprise to me if Salihu Mustapha and his legislative aids fail to answer any question of constitutional law.

This is not the first time Salihu Mustapha and his cohorts will be blind to the data rights of Nigerians. It started with unsolicited calls and SMS in the period before the election. There was also a broadcast message used to spam recent graduates of the Nigerian law school on the occasion of the call-to-bar ceremony. This is a veil being pulled from the face of a flagrant data breach. This situation forces us to confront the uncomfortable question, “How did Senator Mustapha come into possession of our personal data, and what justifies his appropriation of it without consent or authorization?”
Is it not possible that the data has been collected as a subject of monetary transactions? Let us assume that that is not the case. The incident involving Senator Mustapha is not a solitary transgression but part of a global crisis.

The commercialisation of personal data has turned the violation of privacy into a thriving industry, perpetuating an environment where privacy is routinely disregarded. Data breaches, massive hacking scandals, and the unauthorized procurement of personal data have become an alarming norm, jeopardizing individuals’ privacy, data security, and their very liberty.

Persons, whoever they are, must be held accountable for violating data rights if we are to avoid a situation where Nigeria’s data landscape turns into a profit-driven industry. Senators and other public leaders must be held accountable for their deeds and not shielded from the consequences of the laws they swore to enforce. Data subjects should always have control over the use of their personal data, and any intentional or inadvertent data breaches should result in severe penalties.

Going back to the core focus of this piece; Senator Turaki, there are questions to be answered. “Where did Senator Saliu Mustapha and his agents obtain our data from?” and “What authority do they have to invade our privacy?” These are questions not to be left unanswered.

This is a demand for transparency and a request for the safeguarding of the data privacy rights of every Nigerian.

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