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FG spent $2.7bn to spy on citizens—IDS report

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By Abraham Adekunle

Dedicated sums for surveillance despite economic woes shocking.

The Institute of Development Studies has made some startling revelations in its new report. According to the study, Nigeria, which is Africa’s largest economy, has spent a sum of $2.7 billion on surveillance equipment contracts between 2013 and 2022. On average, this amounts to $12 per citizen. The report further stated that Nigerian expenditure on surveillance technology surpassed that of the other countries on the continent. Perhaps the country is living up to its nickname as the giant of Africa.

Successive governments have allocated funds to surveillance technology for various purposes including internet intervention, mobile interception, and social media monitoring. The country’s government has hired contractors from many countries including Israel, Cyprus, the UK, USA, and Bulgaria. The report, which is entitled “Mapping the Supply of Surveillance Technologies to Africa,” alleges that the surveillance equipment has been utilized for spying on citizens. This is an act that contravenes the Nigerian constitution as well as intentional laws.

Loophole in the constitution allows surveillance.

According to the report, Section 37 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees that the government will protect citizens’ rights to privacy of communication. However, there is copious evidence that multiple state agencies use a growing range of digital surveillance technologies to spy on citizens in breach of these constitutional guarantees. But while the Constitution protects citizens’ right to communication, a particular regulation allows state agencies to willfully use surveillance technologies on people.

It is known as the Lawful Interception of Communications Act. According to this law, state agencies have leveraged this law to not only conduct surveillance operations but intercept citizens’ communications, whether through phone calls or social media, with compliance from telecom companies. The report also revealed that state agencies have targeted political opposition groups, journalists, and civil activists via this technology. An instance of this was when Solomon Akuma, a pharmacist, who criticized the then-president Muhammadu Buhari and late Chief of Staff Abba Kyari, was arrested by the police in April 2020.

Shocking that FG dedicates huge money to surveillance despite economy.

Contravening the human right to expression, the pharmacist was made to await trial for three months, all the while kept under guard. When he got his day in court, he was charged with terrorism, sedition, criminal intimidation of the president, and threat to the life of the president. After spending nearly three years in custody, he was freed in January 2023. Even despite the economic woes that citizens experience daily, the Federal Government has a high taste for surveillance in Nigeria.

Nigerian economy has taken worse hits in the last few years, forcing businesses to shut down and discouraging foreign investments. Given the state of affairs, it is shocking to see that past governments have dedicated huge sums of money to surveillance. The surveillance is not even targeted at securing citizens but to spy on them. While the constitution forbids this, the Lawful Interception of Communication Act complicates matters.

Avenue for serious debate on laws of the country.

This scenario presents an avenue for lawmakers in the two legislative chambers of the nation to debate and fashion out ways to properly operate this security aspect of the country. Perhaps lawmakers should focus on introducing a single regulation that provides clarity on surveillance. This is a goal that civil society groups and other concerned parties must work together to achieve. The public should also raise awareness and concerned citizens should create discuss around this loophole on social media as well as on the television and radio.

Related Link

Institute of Development Studies: Website

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2 months ago

FG spent $2.7bn to spy on citizens—IDS report. – Dedicated sums for surveillance despite economic woes shocking. – Express your point of view.

Adeoye Adegoke
Adeoye Adegoke
2 months ago

Wow, it’s truly shocking to hear that the Nigerian government has reportedly spent such a significant amount, $2.7 billion, on surveillance of its citizens, especially considering the economic challenges the country is facing. This raises concerns about the allocation of resources and priorities, as there are pressing needs in sectors such as healthcare, education, infrastructure, and job creation that require urgent attention and investment.
While it is important to ensure national security and protect citizens, it is equally crucial to strike a balance between security measures and respecting individual privacy rights. Transparency and accountability are essential in the use of public funds, and citizens have the right to know how their tax money is being utilized.
In a time when the economy is facing hardships, it would be more prudent to allocate resources towards initiatives that directly benefit the well-being and development of the Nigerian people. Prioritizing investments in sectors such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure can have a more significant and positive impact on the lives of citizens, as well as contribute to long-term economic growth and stability.
It is essential for the government to review its spending priorities and redirect resources towards initiatives that will have a tangible and positive impact on the lives of Nigerians. This can include investing in social welfare programs, job creation, infrastructure development, and improving access to quality healthcare and education.
In conclusion, the reported allocation of a significant amount of funds for surveillance despite economic challenges is indeed concerning. It is crucial for the government to prioritize the well-being and development of its citizens, ensuring transparency, accountability, and responsible allocation of resources. By investing in sectors that directly benefit the Nigerian people, we can foster inclusive and sustainable growth that addresses the pressing needs of the country.

2 months ago

A huge amount of money are been spend on spying on citizen IDS report and the country economy is in bad shape this kind of fund should be spend on appropriate sector that will have positive impact on people of the country

2 months ago

it’s shocking that people will spend $2.7 billion on citizen surveillance despite the economy’s difficulties. Governments should put their citizens’ interests and well-being first, especially in difficult circumstances.