Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Angry Jonathan summons Israeli firm over Internet spy contract disclosures

Published:

Photo: Bello Isiaka via Facebook

The Nigerian government has summoned the management of Elbit Systems, an Israeli security firm contracted to spy on Nigerian Internet users, for a meeting to explain why the contract should not be revoked after it allegedly breached a confidential agreement in the contract.

The management of the Israeli company are expected to first appear before two Nigerian security chiefs – the national security adviser and the director general of the National Intelligence Agency – in Abuja this week. They would then be taken before President Goodluck Jonathan, who is miffed that Elbit’s action had let this newspaper to probe into details of the secret contract.

The security chiefs will relay government’s anger over Elbit System’s ‘breach’ of confidentiality in the $40million contract which will see the Israeli company spy on citizens’ computers and Internet communications under the guise of intelligence gathering and national security.

The Nigerian government is angry the Isreali company went public with the contract, in a global press release that tipped off PREMIUM TIMES which, after extensive investigation, revealed the details of the deal.

The disclosures sparked national outrage, with a lot of Nigerians now apprehensive that their country might be sliding back to dictatorship.

A source close to the deal has told this newspaper the government is angry for two reasons.

First, the administration is angry and embarrassed that the contract, considered by government as top national security secret, has now been blown open.

Elbit announced the contract award few weeks ago in a global press release in an opaque statement that did not disclose the Nigerian destination of the deal.

“Elbit Systems will supply its Wise Intelligence Technology (WiT) system to an unnamed country in Africa under a new $40 million contract announced on 24 April… for Intelligence Analysis and Cyber Defense,” the company’s general manager, Yehuda Vered, said.

But PREMIUM TIMES was able to tap its sources within the administration to determine that Nigeria is indeed the “unnamed African country.”

The contract will help the Jonathan administration access all computers and read all email correspondences of citizens in what is clearly, an infringement on constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression, multiple channels confirmed.

On the other hand, politicians in Aso Rock are angry over the disclosure of the contract sum, and what is left of the originally approved sum, our sources say.

The administration had indicated in the 2013 budget that it would procure a Wise Intelligence Network Harvest Analyzer System, Open Source Internet Monitoring System and Personal Internet Surveillance System at a cost of N9.496 Billion ($61.26 million).

With the contract awarded to Elbit for about $40million, and the story made public, attention has been drawn to the leftover $21million earmarked for the project.

“That money was meant to be shared,” one of our sources said. “It is a security contract and no one will ever ask questions. Now everybody is angry that sharing the money is now difficult.”

Investigations indicate that the Isreali company was awarded the contract without tenders or call for bids, just as there were no public announcements.

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