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National security: Senate initiates bill to empower Police, SSS, others to snoop on communications

By The Citizen
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A Bill seeking to empower relevant security agencies in the country to intercept communications injurious to national security for public interest, Wednesday, passed the second reading at the Senate and was referred to the committees on Communications, Judiciary and National Security for further inputs.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Isa Galaudu (Kebbi North) is entitled 'An Act to provide for the Interception, Development and Protection of Communications Networks and Facilities for Public Interest and other related matters.'

According to Galaudu, the bill will assist, simplify and facilitate the role of national security agencies in tracking terrorism or crime against national security or human dignity using communication or telecommunication services.

Also, the bill seeks to prohibit the manufacture, assembly, processing, sales, purchase or 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 him: '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.'

Expressing fears about the abuse of the bill, Senator Atai Aidoki Ali said this would give opportunity to government to witch-hunt the opposition without court order. He described the bill as ambiguous, positing that it should be streamlined.

However, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said that these are unusual times and that unusual methods should be used to tackle the problems. He stated: 'The security and protection of our citizens is paramount; this is the major aspect of the bill.

'It is also important to stop people using devices to intercept people's calls. I think with this bill, punishment will be prescribed for those who intercept calls illegally.'