The National Assembly on Monday approved N4.87bn for the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) for the purposes of enabling it to track, intercept, monitor calls and messages on mobile devices by telecom subscribers in the country.
The approved sum is part of the N895.8 billion Supplementary Budget submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari last month which was increased by about N87 billion and approved last week by the two chambers of the Legislature
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Barau Jibrin, had then explained that the supplementary budget was meant to procure equipment for the military and to combat the COVID-19 pandemic
Part of the details of the supplementary budget indicated that the NIA would spend N2,938,650,000 on the Thuraya interception solution just as the WhatsApp interception solution got N1, 931,700,000 approval
In addition, the NIA got approval for additional N129m to train its personnel overseas during the fiscal year.
BRTNews.ng reliably gathered that with the approved sum, the agency would be able to track, intercept, monitor calls and messages on mobile devices by the deployment of start-of-the-art artificial intelligence technologies to various locations nationwide for “autonomous collection of massive data sets and analysis”
However, reacting to the n4.87 billion approval by the National Assembly for the NIA, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has reportedly threatened to “challenge this unlawful surveillance and blatant violation of Nigerians’ right to privacy”,
It would be recalled that WhatsApp recently stated in the U.S that: “The government cannot read personal messages on WhatsApp. No third parties except for the sender and the receiver of the messages can read the messages which get forwarded on WhatsApp.”
To protect the rights of telecom subscribers, the telecom services providers have encouraged the end-to-end encryption as a way of ensuring that messages can only be read by the sender and the receiver.