Nigeria’s new Blockchain tech is for a reason, NITDA DG explains

By Stanley Iwuoha

The Federal government says it is set to create home grown Blockchain Nigerium” so that Nigeria data and that of the Nigerian people will not be subject to the decisions of foreign co-developers.

The Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kachifu Abdullahi disclosed this when he received a delegation from the University of Heartfordshire Law school at the agency’s cooperate headquarters in Abuja during the week.

When developed, Kashifu assured that the Blockchain will improve national security and safety of citizens data.

While responding to the head of the delegation Chanu Kuppuswamy and her two partners, Dr. Bukola Faturoti and Ademola Soile-Balogun urged Nigeria to develop its own indigenous blockchain.

“We have the steering committee which you’ve consulted. It’s good you present this research to the steering committee; get their buy in, and let the committee adopt it for implementation.

“We don’t want it to be seen as NITDA to be working within a silo, or you impose something on other members. So we can schedule a meeting with the steering committee members and you present the white paper to them. And when it’s adopted you can bring it to us for implementation. I want us to strengthen the partnership”, he added.

Chanu Kuppuswamy, in her presentation on why Nigeria should own an indigenous blockchain, said, “is like actually having a completely new product bespoke for Nigeria and we decided on how we customise it and how we make the product work for us.

“The product in this case happens to be a new blockchain itself. That nothing but like a fundamentally infrastructure which is necessary for creating new registry (blockchain landed), because you can do it in two ways; one you can take an existing blockchain and you can do something called smart contract on top of it. But what happens is that the smart contract is controlled by Nigeria and the Nigerian government and in behalf of the Nigerian people. But in the underlying blockchain is not controlled by the Nigerian government nor is it written with the interest of people at heart. It’s basically a commercial product that can be changed according to the will of the commercial developers.”

Giving more reasons she said,
“Currently if you were to build a blockchain on Ethereum; Ethereum
co-developers outside of Nigeria who don’t necessarily think of Nigeria’s interest because they don’t have to. And who are not bound by Nigerian laws. If you want to say this clause are not good, they won’t change them because they are not bound by Nigerian laws. And it’s going to be difficult for us. So that’s why we are recommending Nigeria develops its own Ethereum kind of equivalent of blockchain and we are just calling on Nigeria because it’s a place holder name. We want NITDA to consider developing an indigenous blockchain on which we can now think of puting all the public service and the land registries if the 36 states and Abuja. But this will not happen over night, so today we can do a pilot and use etirium but 10 years down the line when you start looking.

“Or we have out all land registries on Ethereum and etirium and it’s co-developers decides to do something differently. Therefore it should be an after thought; we need to think about it now. Therefore if it is Nigerium the thought will not come because it is still the government in collaboration with the co-developers who could come from the private sector, who can take those decisions which is within our control.

“What we are saying in essence is that you have to plan ahead. They always say technology is alway ahead and regulation laws always lagging behind but here we are thinking ahead; we do not want problems of seeing the people and government helpless about all their information being put on a particular product which then can be controlled by any foreign product. As you can see Ethereum is already “folked” that the term they use when the co-developers decides to change the direction. Because they lost a lot of money on their digital currency which they intend to recover. And now you have two groups of etirium users “the classic and the folked”

This is an ongoing collaboration, so we want to achieve the next milestone in this collaboration, which is for some of the research recommendations to be taken forward for implementation.

On using blockchain technology to register lands in Nigeria, she said, “first thing is to lay before the government what the possibility and challenges are. And that’s what we have done through the research. And allow this kind of work to fall in the right ears and to come before the right eyes and that’s what we are doing currently to make sure that the detailed challenges and the potentials is absolved by the government in order that they can take a decision.”

According to her before blockchain technology is deployed the interest of the people must be considered.

“So that is very important before we actually jump in and say let’s converge the Lagos land registry into blockchain based registry. Because we aret talking of peoples in lives and properties. When we bring new changes we need to enable their lives positively and bring prosperity to the region but also it shouldn’t affect any of their existing rights. And that’s why we’ve got to put all that to the government and the government got to listen and act as soon as possible.”

Dr. Bukola Faturoti, a member of the group, who spoke on the need for Nigeria to have a data embassy to back up her data gave reasons why it is necessar in his explanation. “a data embassy is actually a server hosted in third party country. Just as we have Nigerian embassies in different countries. But this time around it is data that is located in those countries. And the way it happens is like when you have an embassy of a state; the law of your country is what is operational in that place.

“Why do you need a data embassy: to have digital continuity because the data of your country is susceptible to attack and it can also be affected by natural disaster and other activities such as cyber attack. Like what happened to Estonia. So when you have a data embassy it is in another country where you believe that it is protected and there are different tiers of these types of protection. In a nutshell when you have a data embassy in a third country, it is regulated by the law of your own country in terms of processing, and sharing. You enter into partnership with them (third country), and when you want to make a decision of where do you want to have your data embassy? You look at the law, and the security level in that country. Because you don’t want to trust another jurisdiction with what belong to you and at the end of the day the problem that you’re trying to avert at home is the same thing that happens at end of the day. It is actually a back up of your national data.”

Another member of the group, Balogun Ademola, said, “one of our seven recommendation is that we are seeking a synergy between all government departments. We can begin to explore an avenue by which blockchain services can be harmonised for interdependency between government agencies.”

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