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The group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari over his administration’s plans to monitor Nigerians on WhatsApp.

In the latest round of lawsuits filed by its lawyers, Mr. Kolawole Oluwadare and Miss Kehinde Oyewumi, the group asks the court to “declare illegal and unconstitutional the administration’s plan to track, intercept and monitor WhatsApp messages, calls phone calls and SMS. messages from Nigerians and others, as this threatens and seriously violates the right to privacy.

The lawsuit followed the Supplemental Appropriation Law proposal signed in July 2021 to spend 4.87 billion naira to monitor calls and private messages.

The amount is part of the 895.8 billion naira supplementary budget approved by the National Assembly.

In case number FHC / ABJ / CS / 1240/2021 filed last Friday in the Federal High Court in Abuja, SERAP requests: “a perpetual injunction order prohibiting President Buhari and any other authority, person or group of persons to illegally monitor WhatsApp messages, phone calls and SMS from Nigerians and others.

SERAP is also calling for “a declaration that any monitoring of WhatsApp messages, phone calls and text messages is oppressive and draconian, as it threatens and violates Articles 37 and 39 of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999.” [as amended]; Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights; and articles 17 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Nigeria is a State party.

According to the group, the plan to monitor WhatsApp messages, phone calls and texts is an arbitrary interference by the administration with respect for family and private life, home and correspondence.

“The Buhari administration has a legal obligation to protect Nigerians and others from arbitrary interference and violations of their human rights. Monitoring WhatsApp messages, phone calls and text messages would give government agencies carte blanche to conduct mass surveillance of people’s communications, ”he said.

“The mere threat of mass surveillance, even secret ones, coupled with the lack of remedy, can constitute an interference with human rights, including the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

“Privacy and expression are closely linked in the digital age, with online privacy serving as a gateway to secure the exercise of freedom of opinion and expression. As a result, surveillance targets would be interfered with in their rights to privacy and to freedom of opinion and expression, whether or not the surveillance effort is successful.

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mr. Zainab Ahmed, joined the lawsuit as defendants.

“The powers to carry out arbitrary, abusive or unlawful surveillance of communications can also be used to target political figures and activists, journalists and others in the course of their legitimate activities.

“Any expenditure of public funds must remain within the limits of constitutional responsibilities and the oath of office of public officials, as well as comply with Chapter 2 of the Nigerian Constitution relating to the fundamental objectives and guiding principles of state policy. .

“The absence of guarantees against discriminatory decision-making and access to an effective remedy shows the serious threats that this so-called plan poses to constitutionally and internationally recognized human rights.

“Article 37 of the Nigerian Constitution and Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantee the right not to be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy and correspondence, communications and data private.

“Article 39 of the Nigerian Constitution and article 19 of the Covenant also guarantee the right of everyone to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers and by all media.

“The United Nations General Assembly has condemned unlawful or arbitrary surveillance and interception of communications as ‘highly intrusive acts’ that interfere with basic human rights (see Assembly resolutions 68/167 and 71/1999 general).

“The invasion of privacy through targeted surveillance aims to suppress the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. Surveillance of journalists, activists, opposition figures, critics and others simply exercising their right to freedom of expression – would lead to violations of other human rights.

“Targeted surveillance creates incentives for self-censorship and directly undermines the ability of journalists and human rights defenders to investigate and establish and maintain relationships with information sources,” the report reads in part. communicated.

SERAP also requests the following reductions:

A statement that monitoring the WhatsApp messages, phone calls and text messages of Nigerians and others is inconsistent with the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality and constitutes a threat and an infringement of privacy rights and family, access to correspondence and freedom of expression and of the press guaranteed by Articles 37 and 39 of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999; Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and Articles 17 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

A statement that the act of the defendants budgeting 4.87 billion naira of public money to monitor WhatsApp messages, phone calls and text messages of Nigerians and others is illegal and a violation of human rights. private and family life, access to correspondence and freedom of expression and of the press.

An ordinance setting aside the 4.87 billion naira budget line to monitor WhatsApp messages, phone calls and text messages of Nigerians and others to be inconsistent and inconsistent with constitutional provisions and international treaties relating to human rights.

An order requiring the 1st defendant to redirect public funds in the amount of 4.87 billion naira budgeted to monitor WhatsApp messages, phone calls and texts of Nigerians and others to improve working conditions health professionals and improve public health facilities across Nigeria.

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