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ACN blasts FG for $40m Internet surveillance contract

By The Citizen

Action Congress of Nigeria has accused the President Goodluck Jonathan administration of launching an assault on the civil rights of Nigerians.

The party stated this while reacting to a report that the Federal Government had awarded a $40m Internet surveillance contract.

According to an online newspaper, Premium Times, the contract will allow the government to monitor the Internet communication of privacy of citizens, especially journalists and those considered to be opponents of the administration.

An Israeli firm reportedly won the contract.
The ACN, in a statement in Lagos on Sunday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said since  the contract was reported, the government had yet to deny it.

It said because the government had yet to deny the report several days after its publication, it was safe to submit that it was true.

The party said the contract would mark the beginning of what would be the curtailment of the right to freedom of speech and expression and the freedom of the press.

The ACN stated, 'For a government that is increasingly paranoid, having failed to

meet the yearnings and aspirations of the citizenry, who are justifiably becoming restive by the day, the ability to spy on the Internet communications of citizens as well as to intercept and read private emails, not to talk of being able to suppress unwanted connections, is a potent weapon against the civil rights of Nigerians as well as the constitutionally-guaranteed rights  like freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of association.

'It is common knowledge that the Jonathan administration has been getting a bad rap from Nigerians in the traditional media as well as the social media - a veritable platform for the citizens to vent their frustrations at a do-nothing government.

'It is also common knowledge that journalists have borne the brunt of the administration's increasing propensity to stifle freedom of expression and press freedom, while members of the opposition are being portrayed more and more as enemies of the administration, rather than being seen as indispensable allies in the nation's quest to evolve a strong and enduring democracy.

'These may have been the motivation for the administration to acquire the Internet Surveillance capability. However, no government in the history of our country, whether elected or otherwise, has taken this kind of brazen measure for whatever reason, hence it must raise serious concerns among the citizenry, their political representatives as well as civil liberties organisations.'

The party said the government might want to hoodwink Nigerians by saying the technology was to enable it to keep a tab on insurgents.

It said such justification was not acceptable it violated the country's constitution.

ACN added, 'This is why we are calling on the National Assembly, civil liberties organisations, professional groups and ordinary citizens to speak out now before it is too late. No government should have the right to play a 'Big Brother' role in the lives of the citizens, because this will ultimately herald the return to autocratic rule and sound the death knell of our democracy.'

However, the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Dr. Ahmed Gulak, on Sunday, said the ACN did not have any moral ground to be attacking the Federal Government as it was doing.

The presidential aide, who said he would not comment on the Internet contract based on speculation, noted that the ACN and its national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, lacked the moral platform on which they could be criticising Federal Government.

Gulak said, 'I am not aware of that (the surveillance contract). I cannot make comment on it based on speculation. I like making comments on issues from informed point of view.' Punch