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Do Prisoners still have rights?

Do Prisoners have data protection Rights in Nigeria?

An individual becomes a prisoner when a judgement has been passed on him and was sentenced to a term of imprisonment by a competent court of law.

Data Protection Rights of Prisoners in Nigeria; Lumenar
Image source: DailyPost

A prisoner is denied rights to freedom of movement and personal liberty for obvious reasons. Nevertheless, as human beings, prisoners have rights conferred on them by International treaties and covenants. They have a right to life, healthcare, not to contract disease in prison, data privacy amongst others.

Prisoner’s Rights

It is a known fact that the prison system in Nigeria under the auspices of the Nigerian Correctional Services (NCS) is far from being administered in accordance with global standards. Sadly, this is the case especially with regards to The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Protection of Prisoners (SMR) otherwise referred to as the NELSON MANDELA RULES. 

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) provides that

” All persons deprived of their liberty should be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person”

Data Protection Rights of Prisoners in Nigeria

Generally, respect for human rights is a major problem in the Nigerian Correctional Centres and we are not certain as to whether the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) is committed to protecting the rights and privacy of all prisoners in line with global standards on data protection.

Data protection is yet to bloom fully in Nigeria. Irrespective of the foregoing, the Nation has taken significant steps towards strengthening the legal framework for data protection in Nigeria. We have the NITDA Data Protection Regulation and currently, there is Data Protection Bill before the Nigerian National Assembly.

Art. 2.1 of the NITDA 2019 Regulation outlines the principles that should guide data protection. The principles are consent, legitimacy, legality of purpose, data security

Personal data shall be collected and processed in accordance with specific, legitimate and lawful purpose consented to by the Data subject."

There is an exception to the above. A data controller like the NCS can further process personal data of its data subjects for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes, statistical purposes.

Irrespective of the foregoing, personal data should be stored only for the period within which it is reasonably needed.

In doing the above, the NCS has a duty of care to it’s data subjects to ensure that their personal data is secured against forseeable breaches like theft.

The Reality of Data Processing and Protection in NCS

The lack of a centralized record keeping system in the NCS is a sad reality. Most Correctional Centres in Nigeria keeps volumes of inmate data and information manually. This obviously does not guarantee a proper safe keeping of inmate records. A prison break for instance can lead to loss of inmates record keeping system in NCS.  

The right to be forgotten allows a data subject to request the data controller to delete his/her personal data records from it’s system. The question then is whether a prisoner who completes his jail term and is subsequently released into the society can exercise their right to be forgotten as a data subject? 

The answer to the above question depends on whether NCS has a wholistic data protection policy in line with the data protection principles.

We hope that the NCS will take steps to actually incorporate a centralized database system as well as to ensure data protection of all immates in line with global trends.

Keywords: Data Protection, Prisoners, Nigerian Correctional Service, NITDA

Chinecherem Ubaka is a legal practitioner based in Lagos. She can be contacted via

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