The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) is to begin the enforcement of compliance with the Public Internet Access (PIA) Regulation which mandates all providers of free internet in open spaces including airports, malls, restaurants and hotels among others to adhere to the regulatory framework for the provision of internet services in locations where members of the public have unfettered access.

The agency announced this move in a press statement issued today in Abuja and signed by its Director General/CEO, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami).

The statement reads:The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), in line with its mandateof promoting and regulating Information Technology in Nigeria, is set to enforce compliance with the Public Internet Access (PIA) Regulation, issued pursuant to Section 6 of the NITDA Act 2007. The PIA Regulation is a regulatory framework for the provision of internet services in public areas or locations where members of the public have unfettered access. It provides minimum requirements and processes for provisioning of the public internet access service and mandates compliance reporting to ensure the rules are followed in provisioning of this vital and strategic service.

The agency commends operators who are currently providing this service across Nigeria, as the service increases the use of internet and information technology for development of Nigeria. It is, however, pertinent to note that this service can be misused with great detriment to development of information technology and national security, in a manner that may be injurious to the citizens.

The Federal Government is also concerned about the management and use of the personal information of Nigerians. It is on these considerations that all service providers of public internet service such as IT companies, Restaurants, Hotels and Event Centres are directed to comply with the Nigerian Data Protection Regulation of the NITDA 2019, issued pursuant to Section 6 of the NITDA 2007.Henceforth, only registered, verified and vetted providers can provide public internet access service in Nigeria.

Current and prospecting providers are therefore required to register with the agency in line with the provisions of the Public Internet Access Regulation, 2019 and must submit, on a bi-annual basis, completed compliance reporting forms in the manner prescribed by NITDA. The Public Internet Access (PIA) Registration form and the Public Internet Access Compliance forms are available on the Agency’s website.

It should be noted that violation of the Regulatory Guidelines of NITDA is a criminal offence and punishable with a fine, imprisonment or both. Members of the public and operators of public internetaccess service are advised to comply promptly and accordingly.

The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), is a Federal Government Agency established in April 2001 to implement the Nigerian Information Technology Policy as well as coordinate general IT development and regulation in the country.

Specifically, Section 6(a, b& m) of the Act mandates NITDA to create a framework for the planning, research, development, standardization, application, coordination, monitoring, evaluation and regulation of Information Technology practices, activities and systems in Nigeria; provide guidelines to facilitate the establishment and maintenance of appropriate infrastructure for information technology and systems application and development in Nigeria for public and private sectors, urban-rural development, the economy and the government; and accelerate internet and intranet penetration in Nigeria and promote sound internet Governance among others.

The action of the NITDA is a right step as this would be instrumental in properly governing the unregulated aspects of internet use in Nigeria. The punishment provisions however may prove contentious particularly sanctions dealing with imprisonments

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