Amidst the seeming helplessness of Nigerian’s security agencies to check the now worrisome terror threats and actual attacks in the country, by the Islamic extremist Sect, Boko Haram, recent plans by the Federal Government to draft an enactment that would empower security operatives to monitor dangerous telephone conversations, require some measure of passionate scrutiny. For the singular reason that such a law, if and when enacted stands the likelihood of infringing on the citizens’ right to privacy, a lot must first be considered to ensure its workability.
On Tuesday, last week, the Federal government made public its plans to push for a legislation in the National Assembly, for a right of electronic surveillance of telephone calls by security agencies in order to stem the tide of security challenges in the country.
Branded, e-surveillance or eavesdropping, when endorsed,the process will involve wiretapping, through interception, by accessing the telephone signal itself as obtains in the United States of America (USA) even before the September 9, 2001 terror attacks on the twin Towers that once housed the World Trade Centre in New York City.
It will be like similar safe-guards put in place by Israel, China and Britain among other countries in proactive battle against criminality, particularly terrorism, drug trafficking and national felonies bordering insecurity. Generally, all such enactments are intended for effective intelligence gathering needed to check money laundering which is the key component of virtually all crimes’ sponsorship and help nip in the bud unwholesome activities of dangerous citizens and others.
In 2009, long before the 9/11 terror experience, the US had a similar low-range monitoring arrangement which recorded 2,379 authorised wiretaps, targeted mainly at drug pushing, and captured conversations of up to 133 individuals lasting about 42 days, according to media reports.
Expectedly, the volume of information gathered from the process successfully recorded 4,537 arrests resulting in, as many as 678 convictions. These figures do not include terrorism-related wiretaps or those of the National Security Agency (NSA) warrantless witetapping programme. But with the experience of 9/11, even the US, with all her love for human liberties and limitless opportunities, including of course, the very invaluable right to privacy has in tune with prevailing national concerns and realities upscaled the NSA’s electronic surveillance scheme with a mandate widened, to serve as a foil against security ships.
There however, US Federal Law enforcement officials, according to media reports, have the power to tap telephone lines only after showing “probable cause” of unlawful activity and only after obtaining a court order. Even so, such reported unlawful activity must involve specific violations, and still leave ample power to the courts to limit the requested surveillance to communications related to the unlawful activity and to a specific period of time, usually 30 days, in line with the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 USC 2516.
Moving in like path, a bill, Nigerian Presidency sources revealed, last week Tuesday, is being drafted for consideration by the National Assembly as a means of boosting intelligence gathering needed to checkmate the increasing spate of violence, bombings and killings in the land. With this worrisome state of insecurity, government is optimistic that the lawmakers would show deep understanding and help fast track the passage of the law.
At the risk of sounding immodest, among all other benefits, the law, when passed, would to ensure codification of messages for easy interception by security agencies and also promote information sharing on a national security network to help check unwholesome plots likely to endanger national security.
However, to work and work well, the projection shall require the co-operation of communication service providers who have already, started foot dragging on the matter, even before the proposed enactment. They have, with a seeming touch of finality, insisted that such an anactment would compromise the privacy law currently operating in the country meant to protect telephone users.
MTN for instance, said in a statement from its head office last week Tuesday, that the plan needs to safeguard against bugging by unauthorised persons. It said. “MTN Nigeria’s network is subject to the same standard protocol that pertains across the world and cannot be intercepted by unauthorised persons. The company goes to extra ordinary lengths to protect the confidentiality of its customers and data or call information are judiciously protected in strict compliance with the relevant laws”, the statement added.
Clearly, MTN’s position is a familiar stereotype by telephone service providers at peace time and is commendable, afterall, what is the use of a telephone facility if it becomes a glorified radio station for all. No doubt, the company’s position can best be understood from the view point that such uninhibited surveillance of individuals’ telephones by all, could in itself, be a danger to the citizenry which the law seeks to protect as criminals could also use same facility to track various targets.
But the little now known of the Federal government’s attempt, and the example of the US experience, just as those of China, Isreal and Britain, may not get as bad as the telecommunication houses are wont to fear. The facility, for sure, cannot be free from all. Infact, even among the authorised users, there should be, I am minded to believe, necessary safe guards against abuses.
So, rather than kill the lofty federal government plan, even before birth, all well-meaning Nigerians, desirous to put an end to the wanton killings of innocent Nigerians and even foreigners in the land, should consider the effort as a citizen’s sacrifice necessary in times of war. Like that waged by the Boko Haram Sect.
Without doubt, a lot is indeed at stake from the individuals’ rights perspective but should we, for those reasons, remain helpless and merely watch hundreds more of human lives be lost to terror-related attacks in the hands of Boko Haram and, only recently, MEND?
But I have another worry. Letting the National Assembly to enact the law is one thing, what the security personnel do with the information to be gathered from that process is entirely another. What, for instance, has been done to fish-out security personnel known to have been compromised in the search of Boko Haram King pins? With such thorn-coats still masquerading as patriots among genuine officers, is there any way of telling what danger they could mean to the entire process? How would such fifth colummists use such information?
Yes, even in the US there are also black-legs in the security ranks but is it not also a statement of fact that a larger majority of Americans love their country and respect members of the Security and Armed Forces better? That public empathy indeed serves as a conscience booster to American Security personnel who for the same reasons after, feel eternally indebted to their nation and citizens in a way few Nigerians ever would.
These disparities must be properly considered in the entire process of law-making and ensure that rather than allow the facility open, even to all security personnel, only a trusted tiny command structure should be created for this sensitive job, who, in turn, will share such information in a manner that the plan does not end up as a curse to Nigeria and her peoples but a blessing.
My Agony is that hiding under the usual exaggerated defence of human rights, the next line of the national debates on the issue that will follow, will predictably be everything but for the passage of such a law, because it will give even the unknown sponsors of the terror groups, an escape root to express pretentious support for human freedom, which in their protracted silence, Boko Haram terrorists have denied many.
The Law has my vote!
Soye Wilson Jamabo
Wike, Pride Of Nigeria’s Democracy, NUJ Affirms
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has described Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, as an exhibit of pride to democracy in Nigeria.
The NUJ also noted that Wike has redefined governance through demonstration of democracy in action with his service to Rivers people.
The National leadership, the 36 State Executives, and the FCT, including members of the NUJ across the country made the assertion in Port Harcourt during the inspection tour led by the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim of both completed and ongoing projects being undertaken by the governor in the state.
The National President of the NUJ, Chief Chris Isiguzo, said the 1999 Constitution bestows on the media the responsibility to hold governments accountable to the people.
Isiguzo posited that having placed the projects side-by-side with the expectations of the populace, it was obvious that the governor’s investment in critical infrastructure would remain lifelong empowerment tools for the people.
”We were at the Mother and Child Hospital. We took time to look at the facilities there. That can easily be said to be first of its kind in the country.
”At the much-talked about Real Madrid Football Academy, where they are going to train the young ones, we saw that they have good facilities. At the moment, they have also offered admission to 140 pupils.
”That’s also to catch-them-young, and I want to believe that by the time this kind of resources is continuously invested in sports development in Nigeria, it’s just a matter of time, it will gain its pride of place in sporting world.”
On her part, the National President of Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Mrs Ladi Bala said that the projects she had seen were entirely unique, unprecedented and very uncommon in the country.
According to Bala, the Emmanuel Chinwenwo Aguma Judges’ Quarters stand out as first of its kind in Nigeria, with its serene ambiance that would translate into enhancing the productivity of judges of Rivers origin.
”I believe that democracy is at work in Rivers State, and, for Rivers people, I want to congratulate them, and to say, this is the true reflection of what democracy should be across board.
”I want to call on other governors across the country to borrow a leaf from what the governor of Rivers State is doing. Wike is working, and we are very proud of what we have seen here”, she added.
In his reaction, the National Internal Auditor of NUJ, Muhammad Tukur, stated that Wike was a committed leader with the vision of uplifting the standard of life of his people.
Tukur, who expressed gratitude to Wike for his support to the NUJ National Conference in Port Harcourt, said that his show of love for journalists confirms his commitment to the welfare of the people.
On his part, Chairman of Oyo State Council of the NUJ, Comrade Ismail Ademola Babalola, asserted that the Mother and Child Hospital, and the Real Madrid Football Academy were part of projects Governor Wike was using to secure a productive future for the youths of the state because they meet global standard.
Also speaking, the Vice President of NUJ North Central Zone, Chief Wilson Bako, commended the quality of the various roads and flyover bridges constructed in the Port Harcourt metropolis to make the city tourists’ destination of choice.
In the same vein, the Vice Chairman of NUJ in Jigawa State, Comrade Larai Musa, said she has confirmed all that the news media had carried about Wike and his projects’ mantra, and asserted that it was leaders like him that were needed at the national level.
Also, Comrade Ikechukwu Ordu of Enugu State Council of the NUJ noted the need for other political leaders to emulate Wike in providing dividends of democracy to Rivers people and changing the fortunes of his state.
Also from the Enugu State Council of the NUJ, Comrade Ugochukwu Chukwudieke, said she was completely overwhelmed by what Wike has done in constructing the Okoro-Nu-Odo Flyover Bridge, Rumuogba Flyover Bridge, and Rebisi Flyover Bridge delivered within one year.
Chukwudieke also praised the quality of work on the Rumuola Flyover Bridge, Ogbun-nu-Abali Flyover Bridge, GRA Junction Flyover Bridge, and the Orochiri-Wurukwo flyover project at Waterlines Junction by Aba Road.
Stop Constitution Review, CNG Tasks NASS
The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), yesterday, called on the National Assembly to suspend the review of the 1999 Constitution, describing it as ill-timed and uncalled for, particularly in the face of the growing agitation for Nigeria’s break-up.
It also urged the National Assembly to invoke the doctrine of necessity to organize a Biafra referendum as the final step towards the separation of the Igbo from the rest of Nigeria.
This was part of the presentation which CNG made before the leadership of the National Assembly against the backdrop of the disturbances created by certain interest groups in the South-East, in the form of the agitation for a separate state of Biafra.
Briefing journalists in Abuja after the presentation, CNG Spokesman, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, noted that the Biafra agitation in the South-East had turned violent, alleging that the aim of the unrest in the region was to instigate reprisals by northerners against people from other parts of the country.
He said, “We demanded the immediate suspension of the ongoing exercise for the review of the 1999 Constitution and to concentrate on the first priority of determining who and what actually constitutes Nigeria as a nation in the present circumstance in which the Igbo, by taking up arms against the Nigerian state for the third time, have foreclosed every hope for the rest of us to continue coexisting with them as one nation.
“In order to achieve the final separation of the Igbo from the rest of Nigeria, we also demanded the NASS to organize a referendum by seeking the cover of the same Doctrine of Necessity invoked by Nigeria’s federal parliament that paved way for former President Goodluck Jonathan’s takeover by declaring the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua unfit.
“We further demanded NASS to prevail on the Federal Government of Nigeria to invite the United Nations as well as the African Union and ECOWAS, to initiate the process of self-determination to mandate the Biafrans out of the Nigerian union by leveraging on the several relevant international treaties and conventions to which Nigeria is a signatory.
“Today, everyone can see that the diabolical scheme planned and exhibited in the actions and clamours of IPOB, supported morally and politically by the vast majority of the pliant and affrighted Igbo elites, politicians, traditional rulers, business persons, and the larger population of this ethnic group has pushed Nigeria to the precipice.
“We are convinced that this renewed violent determination of the Igbo to see through the secession of the South-East from Nigeria is now real and cannot be avoided or deferred any longer without terrible consequences.
“In order to avoid such mishaps and unnecessary devastation on all sides, particularly the South-East whose leaders and agitators are now bent on driving it over the brink into a catastrophe, CNG is of the view that resort to available means of actualising the separation of the South-East from the rest of Nigeria is today a vital task that must be undertaken by all.”
Suleiman also argued that in order to prevent a descent into another civil war, and to forestall mass killings and untold sufferings, CNG has committed to the call for a referendum that will finally separate the South-East from Nigeria.
He added, “In this connection, we are hoping the NASS will come up with a framework to be agreed upon in the course of the referendum and its final implementation in the South-East or any enclave that wishes to secede from Nigeria.
All identified indigenes (Igbos) of the enclave or entity that called for secession (South-East) must leave the territory of Nigeria and assemble in their designated enclave for the purpose of the exercise.
“The outcome of the referendum shall be final, irreversible and shall not be reviewed or reconsidered for any other reasons. Citizens of the breakaway enclave shall be deprived of any automatic rights to return to the territory of the rump Nigeria, or to be admitted to live in any of its parts.
“We are aware that all this while, the North continued to bear the brunt of the violent agitations for secession with equanimity, stoical calm and resignation.
“Therefore, as the CNG recommits to the pursuit of a final constitutional separation with Biafra, we urge the North to remain the bulwark of respect, integrity, dignity, decorum, tradition, decency, morality, civilization, etiquette, good behaviour, politeness, accommodation, and all other positive traits with the assurance that the good will ultimately prevail over evil.”
PDP’s Performance Has Diminished APC In Rivers, Wike
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike says with what his administration has achieved, and is still doing, in terms of delivery of critical infrastructure, nobody in the state needs to talk about the All Progressives Congress (APC) anymore.
The governor made the assertion at the flag-off of construction work of the Ogbum-nu-Abali/Eastern-Bypass Road project, yesterday, in Port Harcourt.
Wike explained that the previous administration politicised the reconstruction of the Ogbum-nu-Abali/Eastern-Bypass road and actually failed to accomplish it.
The governor said he has defied those political intrigues, and has genuinely interfaced with the people to understand the economic benefits a dualised road in the city centre could attract.
According to Wike, with the level of infrastructural development around Ogbum-nu-Abali, there would be a spike in the value of property and enhanced economic activities.
“I know that the people of Ogbum-nu-Abali resisted the dualisation of this road because of lack of information. When I met with the community leaders, they said look, they have houses bequeathed to them by their grandparents.
“I told them that whether they like it or not, if I don’t dualise it today, tomorrow somebody else will do it. And you don’t know who is coming.
“So, it’s better done now that I am a governor than when you don’t know who is coming. And the economic benefit of this road is too much, which you may not understand now.”
Speaking further, Wike stated that the entire Old Government Residential Area (GRA) has been given a facelift with quality road projects.
“This is the only place remaining. Old GRA cannot be like that and then we will leave this place. We have done the Rebisi flyover, the Oru-Abali flyover. There is no way this place will not be dualised at all. It’s not possible.”
Performing the flag-off, the member representing Port Harcourt Federal Constituency 1, Hon Kenneth Anayo Chikere, said the formal flag-off ceremony has ended several speculations about the possibility of executing the project.
“This day witnesses the eventual actualisation of the Ogbum-nu-Abali/Eastern Bypass Road project. Thank you governor for the Ogbum-nu-Abali/Eastern Bypass Road project!
“Thank you governor, for the Ogbum-nu-Abali internal roads, completed, commissioned and profitably in use. Thank you for being a worthy son and governor! Thank you for the exemplary leadership, the infrastructural and human development in all sectors.”
The Rivers State Commissioner for Works, Elloka Tasie-Amadi, while giving the project description said the dualisation of the Ogbum-nu-Abali Road will extend all the way to the ongoing Eastern Bypass dualisation.
“Today, Ogbum-nu-Abali Road is a 7.3m wide single carriage way, with a cross section of approximately 8.5m width inclusive of the drains on either side of the road. After reconstruction and project completion, we will have a cross section of 18.1m width on the axis extending to Eastern Bypass and 17.35m width along Ogbum-nu-Abali Road.
“This cross section is made up of 2 carriageways, each measuring 7.3m wide, both of which will be separated by a median of 1.5m width along the extension to Eastern Bypass and a median of 750cm width along Ogbum-nu-Abali Road.
It includes 1m wide drains on either side of the road, and of course, street lighting to ease movement at night as well as enhance security.
The commissioner said, the project like many others commissioned or ongoing will be built to design specifications aimed at guaranteeing minimum life-span requirement of 30 years.
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