ACN To FG – Stop Assaulting Nigerians’ Civil Rights!

The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has accused the Goodluck Jonathan administration of launching an unprecedented assault on the civil rights of Nigerian citizens, through the reported $40 million Internet Surveillance Contract that will allow the government to invade the privacy of citizens, especially journalists and those considered to be opponents of the administration.

In a statement issued in Lagos on Sunday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said since the report of the contract, said to have been awarded to an Israeli firm, has yet to be denied several days after it was published, it is safe to assume that it is indeed true.

If so, it said, it will mark the beginning of what is sure to be the curtailment of the right to freedom of speech and expression and the freedom of the press, in addition to the invasion of citizens’ privacy, just to mention a few implications.

”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

”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 ACN said.

The party said while the government may seek to hoodwink Nigerians by saying the technology is to enable it to keep a tab on the insurgents, who are rampaging in a section of the country, such justification cannot hold water since it violates the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In any case, who will police the use of the technology to ensure that it is not abused?

”Desirable as it may be for the government to be able to gather useful intelligence on the terror groups that have held a section of our country by the jugular, nothing can justify what will essentially become a weapon for harassment, intimidation and even decimation of perceived opponents by a desperate and paranoid administration that is already firing poisoned arrows at those it sees as its enemies, within and outside its fold, in the run up to the 2015 elections.

”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,” it said.

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