By Emma Okonji
Following the planned launch of two communications satellites by the federal government, with one of them having the eavesdropping capabilities that would allow it monitor the conversation and activities of people via mobile mobile phone and the internet, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) has warned that such development would amount to invading into people’s privacy without authorisation.
PIN has therefore submitted a letter to the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, on the alleged eavesdropping capabilities of one of the two satellites that Nigeria plans to build and launch.
It was reported that inside sources at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had revealed that one of the proposed satellites has eavesdropping capabilities.
Worried about the development, the Programme Assistant at PIN Tomiwa Ilori, said: “As an organisation at the forefront of ensuring digital rights and that human rights are respected when new technologies are being used in Nigeria and by extension in Africa, we are keen on conversations that involve freedom of expression, internet interference, data privacy and security and most importantly, surveillance and transparency.”
Also, the Director of Programs at PIN, Tope Ogundipe, said: “It is in achieving these objectives that we call on the Federal Ministry of Communications to provide all the details involved in the building and launching of the two new satellites for the Nigerian government. As we have stated in the freedom of information request sent to the Ministry on February 2, 2017, the scaling up of the number of satellites in space may be noble but in order to ensure that this is done with utmost regard to digital rights of every Nigerian, every stakeholder, including the Ministry, must all act as watchdogs for our digital rights.”
According to Ogundipe, “Even though there have been insinuations that these satellites are capable of eavesdropping on the communications of most Nigerian citizens when finally launched, we believe that the ministry understands this to be an erosion on the fundamental human rights guaranteed by Section 37 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.
Program Manager at PIN, Boye Adegoke, also said: “In light of the report, and possible implications on digital rights in Nigeria, we ask the ministry to honour our Freedom of Information (FoI) request within time stipulated by law and provide us with every information as regards the launch of the satellites and their intended use so that the general public can be aware that not only are the eavesdropping allegations untrue but also that the ministry and every other agency of government will continue to respect human rights, and in particular, digital rights.”
Paradigm Initiative says it will continue to monitor this development for new updates and ensure that a logical conclusion is reached on the matter. In the past four years, the organisation has used litigation to follow up on FoI requests that were not responded to.