The Office for Nigerian Content in Information and Communications Technology has raised the alarm over the foreign hosting of data on the Treasury Single Account.
In a query issued to SystemSpec, owners of the Remita software and consultants to the Central Bank of Nigeria on TSA, the ONC, which is an offshoot of the National Information Technology Development Agency, said hosting of the TSA database abroad was contrary to its localisation regulation.
In the letter, the ONC asked SystemSpec to show evidence that it had express approval of the Federal Government to host the database abroad or face penalties, including fines as enshrined in the NITDA Act of 2007.
It also asked the company to come forward with “plans for repatriating the data to Nigeria within a timeframe acceptable to the ONC.”
The National Coordinator, ONC, Mr. Inye Kemabonta, confirmed that the office wrote the letter when contacted on the telephone by our correspondent.
He said the local content regulation of NITDA required all government data to be hosted locally for the purpose of creating jobs, security of the data and other national imperatives, adding that Nigeria was losing huge sums of money as a result of poor local content in the ICT sector.
Kemabonta said, “Local content, whether in oil or ICT, is critical to Nigeria’s survival. One provision of the regulation on local content is that all government data must be hosted locally. What that means is huge. There is so much data in this country. A tip of it is the financial data, which are collected now for the TSA implementation. The database on the TSA is hosted overseas.
“What does the hosting overseas do? One, it ships Nigerian jobs overseas. For a government that is creating jobs, that is a terrible thing to do. The ecosystem for data hosting is huge. Nigeria is not getting value at all. Over 2,000 persons that can be employed in one small data centre.
“The spinoff industries that come from data hosting, data mining and data warehousing, for instance, are also gone. That is not to mention the security implication. If the country that our data is hosted is at war with Nigeria for one week, do you know that the financial system can just crash?”
He added, “The question is: what are we doing at the ONC? We have asked the organisation running the TSA, SystemSpec, through its Remita software, to show us proof that it has permission to host government data outside the country or face sanction. So, we are waiting for its response.
“We have also asked them to give us very clear plans to migrate the data back to Nigeria. Why do we say so? The argument in the past that there was no infrastructure is no longer true. We have on our own conducted a survey of the industry and we found that there are several Nigerian firms that have capacity to even export. There is no more excuse for anyone to host data outside the country. There is no excuse because capacity exists in this country now.”
Attempt to speak with the Group Managing Director of SystemSpecs, Mr. John Obaro, proved abortive as calls to his mobile telephone line could not be terminated; neither was a text message sent to the number replied as of press time.
However, a top official of SystemSpecs, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said the company had not breached any regulation.
He said although the company and the TSA had existed before the localisation requirement, SystemSpec was making efforts to ensure that it secured a good host in the country that could offer a secure environment.
The source said, “Remita is a software that was completely developed in Nigeria by Nigerians. We have not employed a foreigner in the company. It is fully local. Yes, we are hosting the TSA database in one of the best and most secure data centres in the world. They provide outsourced infrastructure, while we focus on the technology.
“We even started out hosting locally but because of the challenges of power and other things, we had to host abroad. Remita has been in existence for 10 years and the TSA started in 2010, but the regulation on local hosting was rolled out in 2013.
“Even before this issue came up, we have been trying to see how we can migrate the data to Nigeria. We have shared that plan with the ONC. We are trying to ensure that we don’t leave a world class infrastructure and come to enjoy anything less in Nigeria. This cannot be achieved in a day.”