The Federal Government has been given a seven-day ultimatum to make public to Nigerians details of the $40 million Internet Surveillance contract said to have been awarded to foreign firm. The contract was allegedly said to have been awarded by the Federal Government to monitor internet activities of the over 45 million Nigerians on the web.
But Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), in statement yesterday, said it had made a Freedom of Information request to the Presidency to disclose details of the contract. PIN is a social enterprise that connects Nigerian youth with ICT-enabled opportunities. In a letter signed by its Executive Director, Mr. ‘Gbenga Sesan, and dated May 2, 2013, PIN initiated a letter said, “We requested relevant records, documents and information on the alleged $40 million Internet surveillance contract, as supported by the 2013 budget. “We requested details of the contract and its award process, and we have provided adequate contact information such as email, phone numbers, Lagos and Abuja office addresses, for feedback.”
The Chief Operating Officer of PIN, Mrs. Tope Ogundipe, explained that on Monday, May 6, 2013, the letter was sent to the office of the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity. “The letter conveying our FoI request has now been received by the office of the Special Adviser, Media and Publicity.
As stated in the Freedom of Information law, signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan, we expect a response to our query within seven days,” she said. She said PIN had made the FoI request because, “For five years, we have had reason to lead campaigns because of legislative language that could hurt Internet Freedom. We are now worried that various actions by government hold the potential of hurting Internet Freedom in Nigeria.”
According to PIN’s ICT Policy Officer, Mr. Godson Ogumka, “The fact that Nigeria is taking steps towards Internet surveillance while the Lawful Interception and Data Privacy bills have not been thoroughly discussed for possible legislative approval raises due concerns.” Meanwhile, PIN disclosed that the Command and Control server for FinFisher, a product described by its distributor, Gamma International, as “Governmental IT Intrusion and Remote Monitoring Solutions” has been spotted in Nigeria.
The Nigerian FinFisher server, PIN said, was listed in a new report by the Citizen Lab and the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies at the University of Toronto, Canada. The contract allegedly awarded by the Federal Government is said to be capable of impinging on the freedom of Nigerian on the Internet.
Commenting on earlier reports about the contract, Sesan said, “Nation states must understand that in this age of quick information turnaround, it is difficult to conceal intentions and actions that could have huge impact on Internet Freedom.
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