Lagos - Despite opposition from civil and human rights groups, members of the Nigerian Senate have unanimously approved the bill seeking to empower relevant security agencies in the country to intercept communications deemed prejudicial to national security.
The bill passed the second reading at the Senate and has been referred to the committees on Communications, Judiciary and National Security for further input.
When finally passed into law, the bill would monitor communications such as telephonic calls, e-mail messages and such other electronic exchange of information like short messaging service (SMS) and multimedia applications.
Lawmakers believe it would enhance national security, prevent crime and facilitate criminal investigations.
In addition, the bill seeks to prohibit the manufacture, assembly, processing, sales, purchase and advertisement of certain equipment
illegally used as interception devices and to also protect the interest of communication users through prohibition of interception, and provide circumstances under which interception may be permitted for public interest, according to senators.
Proponent of the bill, Senator Isa Galaudu from Kebbi State, Northwest Nigeria, argued that the bill would assist, simplify and facilitate the role of national security agencies in tracking terrorism or crime against national security as well human dignity where communication or telecommunication services were used.
“It is pertinent to note that the bill strengthens the terrorism prevention act, which empowers the Attorney-General of the Federation, National Security Adviser or the Inspector-General of Police to acquire information relating to terrorist groups and terrorist acts and conduct investigations or search with or without warrant to prevent or establish a crime of terrorism in Nigeria,” said Galaudu.
However, another senator, Atai Aidoki Ali, opposed the propose legislations saying it would give opportunity to government to witch-hunt the opposition without court orders.
He described the bill as ambiguous, positing that it should be streamlined. Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy Senate President endorsed the bill despite the controversy around it.
“These are unusual times and unusual methods should be used to tackle problems,” he said.
- CAJ News