Reps investigate $40m surveillance contract… approve 14 years imprisonment

By The Citizen

House of Representatives has ordered an investigation into the alleged award of $40 million Internet surveillance contract by the Presidency to a foreign company.

The House mandated its committees on ICT, Justice and Anti- corruption to investigate the alleged contract, while the Presidency was directed to put the contract on hold while the investigation lasts.

This was the outcome of a motion introduced under matters of urgent public importance by Ibrahim Shehu Gusau (ANPP Zamfara) who stated that the contract was reported to have been awarded secretly and in clear disregard for due process and the Fiscal Responsibility Act as well as the Public Procurement Act of 2007.

According to him, the award has violated the basic privacy provision in Chapter 4, Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, pointing out that the contract purportedly awarded for intelligence gathering for purposes of national security may not be the answer to the glaring security challenges facing the country at the moment.

He further argued that the right to private and family life of Nigerians have been violated and breached by the arrangement.

Meanwhile, the House yesterday, endorsed a 14 years jail sentence with no option of fine for same sex couples. The House also outlawed gay clubs and societies in the country.

The lawmakers took these decisions while considering the report on a 'Bill for an Act to prohibit marriage or civil union entered between persons of same sex, solemnization of same and other matters related'.

The House also placed a 10 years jail term for members of gay associations or those engaged in gay processions. The lawmakers resolved that any marriage or civil union entered into by persons of same gender is prohibited.

The bill on same sex was introduced on the floor of the House last year. A public hearing on the matter was held in October, 2012.

The senate had also passed a bill prohibiting same sex union with similar jail terms for offenders.

With the consideration of the report, the bill will now wait for harmonisation with the senate's version.

Yesterday's consideration of the report was presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Emeka Iheioha. The House resolved that 'marriage contract or civil union entered between persons of same gender by virtue of a certificate issued by a foreign country shall be void in Nigeria, and any benefits accruing therefrom by virtue of the certificate shall not be enforced by any court of law in Nigeria'.

It outrightly banned solemnization of same sex marriage in place of worship like church, mosque, traditional places .

The Bill provides that: 'Marriage or civil union entered between persons of same gender shall not be solemnised in any place of worship either in a church or Mosque or in any other place in Nigeria'.

The House insisted that 'Only marriage contract between a man and a woman either under Islamic law, Customary law and Marriage Act is recoganised as valid in Nigeria.

Same sex marriage, an absurdity
The bill described same sex marriage as an absurdity that should not be allowed in the country. The House ruled that no person should be allowed to operate a gay club.

The bill further stated that 'any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations or directly or indirectly makes a public show of same sex amorous relationship commits an offence and shall each be liable on convictions to a term of 10 years imprisonment .

'Any persons or group of persons that witnesses, screens, shields and aids the solemnization of a same sex marriage contract or civil union or supports the registration of gay clubs, societies and organisations, processions or meetings in Nigeria commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment'.

On the courts that will have the jurisdiction to entertain same sex marriage litigations, the bill provides that both the state and Federal Capital Territory, FCT, courts are empowered to hear cases of breach of any provision of the bill.

The bill further provides that 'the High Court of a State or of the Federal Capital Territory shall have jurisdiction to entertain matters arising from the breach of the provisions of the bill.'