The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to redirect the N4.87 billion proposed for WhatsApp monitoring to striking resident doctors.
According to the rights group, a portion of the funds should be used to improve public healthcare facilities for the benefit of poor Nigerians.
The President signed the N983 billion supplementary appropriation bill into law in July.
The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) has been given N4.87 billion to monitor Nigerians’ WhatsApp messages, phone calls, and text messages.
N1.93 billion was set aside for the ‘WhatsApp Intercept Solution,’ while N2.93 billion was set aside for the ‘Thuraya Interception Solution.’
According to the Federal Government, the funds will be used to strengthen intelligence services’ ability to combat cybercrime and terrorism.
However, SERAP maintains that given the repression of civic space and the Twitter ban, the powers to conduct arbitrary communications surveillance may target opposition figures, activists, journalists, and others.
SERAP advised the President to submit to the National Assembly for approval a new supplementary appropriation bill reflecting the redirected budget.
The body reminded Buhari of his oath of office to promote efficient and legal spending of public funds in a letter dated 14 August 2021, signed by deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare.
It was copied to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abukabar Malami, and the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed.
“SERAP is concerned about your government’s failure to resolve the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) strike over pay, insurance benefits, and inadequate facilities,” the group stated.
According to SERAP, all government actions must be in accordance with the Nigerian constitution as well as the country’s international human rights obligations and commitments.
The letter warned that the threat of mass surveillance could infringe on human rights, such as the right to privacy, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.
SERAP demanded that its request be granted within seven days or face legal action against the Buhari administration.