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Nigeria: e-surveillance bill underway to up security watch

Posted on Thursday, 6 October 2011 17:29

In the wake of heightened insecurity in Nigeria, the federal government has begun deliberating new legislation that will monitor telephone calls.

If passed into law, the legislation will allow security agencies to adopt e-surveillance technology, which will involve wire-tapping through interception of telephone transmission by accessing the communication signal itself.

“As part of measures to fight crimes being perpetrated through the phone, there is an ongoing process to enact a law of Lawful Interception in the country,” headof the Public Affairs Unit of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Rueben Muoka told reporters.

“The commission has no power currently to give any such order to the security agencies.”

Analysts say the law would ensure codification of messages for easy interception by security agencies, which would also promote information sharing on a national security network to counter terrorism and criminal operations.

Security agencies would be able to detect unwholesome communications that could undermine national security, curtail drug trafficking and money laundering.

The bill is being drafted for the National Assembly and authorities in the security sector are canvassing lawmakers to accelerate the passage of the legislation.

However, telephone operators have expressed reservations on the bill, stressing that it could compromise the country’s privacy laws that protect phone users.

“The law is not meant to invade into people’s privacy but to intercept criminal tendencies,” Muoka assured.

“This doesn’t mean budging people’s lines but to empower security agencies to intercept criminal tendencies using phones.

“If anybody is being tracked for criminal offence, the law, when enacted, would empower security agencies after certain procedures have been fulfilled to intercept.”

In response to concerns on the citizen rights, Muoka was as equivocal and candid.

“There is no law that is made to infringe on people’s rights because they also have the right to challenge any infringement in the law court.

“This is democracy, so no law would be made to violate anybody’s rights but there is also a limit to every right,” he said.

If the bill is passed, Nigeria will join the ranks of the United States, Britain, China and Israel, among other nations where such security arrangements are available.

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