Nigerian rights group wants WhatsApp surveillance plan declared illegal
A Nigerian human rights group has gone to court over a government plan to monitor WhatsApp messages, phone calls, and text messages saying the move severely threatens and violates the right to privacy.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, asking the court to “declare illegal and unconstitutional the plan by the administration to track, intercept and monitor WhatsApp messages, phone calls, and text messages of Nigerians and other people, as it severely threatens and violates the right to the preservation of privacy.”
The suit, according to SERAP was necessitated by the proposal in the Supplementary Appropriation Act signed in July 2021 to spend N4.87 billion to monitor private calls and messages. It added that the amount is part of the N895.8 billion supplementary budget approved by the National Assembly.
In the suit filed last Friday at the Federal High Court in Abuja, SERAP is seeking: “an order of perpetual injunction restraining President Buhari and any other authority, persons or group of persons from unlawfully monitoring the WhatsApp messages, phone calls and text messages of Nigerians and other people.”
The body argued that the Buhari administration has legal obligations to protect Nigerians and other people against arbitrary interference and violations of their human rights.
It further stated that the monitoring of WhatsApp messages, phone calls and text messages of citizens would grant free rein to government agencies to conduct mass surveillance of communications of people.