Nigerian Hacking Governors’ Forum: Activists ask Buhari to probe Akpabio, Amaechi, Dickson, Uduaghan

Seriake Dickson, Godswill Akpabio, Emmanuel Uduaghan, and Rotimi Amaechi, some Nigerian governors hacking telephones.
Seriake Dickson, Godswill Akpabio, Emmanuel Uduaghan, and Rotimi Amaechi, some Nigerian governors hacking telephones. Creative: Mohammed Lere

An Internet freedom advocacy group has written Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari to protest the violation of human rights of private citizens as well as abuse of power by a group of incumbent and past governors.

The group, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria [PIN], in its letter, demanded the President to investigate the politicians for hacking telephones and computers and carrying out illegal mass surveillance on Nigerians.

The protest followed an investigative report by PREMIUM TIMES, where incumbent governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson; ex-governors of Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Delta – Rotimi Amaechi, Godswill Akpabio, and Emmanuel Uduaghan –  were named in an extensive mass surveillance and hacking expedition that breached citizens’ rights and violated Nigerian laws.

The politicians acquired high calibre cyber warfare tools from various military contractors across the world, enabling them to carry out illegal surveillance and hacking activities which involves them breaking into target computers and phones to monitor citizen’s private and confidential conversations on communication devices.

The hacking politicians also had ability to spy at private citizens’ online activities or conversations such as email, phone logs, Whatsapp chats and all forms of text/chat messages.

Some of the tools have the ability to secretly turn on victims’ smartphone microphone and camera to record conversations and collect data.

Analysts say information acquired through this backdoor access to people’s private is a weapon for blackmail, and a tool to gain political advantage.

Right to privacy is a constitutionally guaranteed right of every Nigerian citizen and only federal security institutions are allowed to acquire cyber warfare tools in Nigeria. And when they did, the National Security Adviser must issue a mandatory End-User Certificate, a protocol all the hacking  politicians violated in their procurement of hacking tools.

“The concerns of abuse PIN has consistently raised has once again been confirmed by the Premium times report. PIN has been unequivocal in her demand for protection of online rights of citizens even in the face of security challenges Nigeria currently faces,” PIN, the first civil society body to protest the illegality said in its letter to the president

“PIN’s position is that any form of interception, even those for the purpose of security, requires judicial oversight and legislative processes must come first.”

PIN is currently leading an effort with the NetRightsNG coalition for Nigeria’s Digital Rights and Freedom law to ensure that Citizensrights as established in the 1999 constitution of Nigeria are guaranteed online.

The Nigerian Hacking Governors Forum scandal blew open following the hacking of Bayelsa state governors Italian cyber warfare contractor, Hacking Team, in early July.

PREMIUM TIMES’ investigation revealed further abuses by Messr. Akpabio, Amaechi, and Uduaghan.

Mr. Akpabio is the current minority leader at the Nigerian senate, while Mr. Amaechi is a close ally of the president, Mr. Buhari.

Read PIN’s full statement below:

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PIN WRITES PRESIDENT BUHARI OVER GOVERNORS AKPABIO, UDUAGHAN, DICKSON AND AMAECHI’S SPYING ACTIVITIES ON PRIVATE CITIZENS

PIN has written a 2-page letter to Nigeria’s President Buhari to protest the violation of human rights of private citizens as well asabuse of power by some Governors in Nigeria. The letter is based on earlier work on the subject of Internet Freedom by PIN, and follows an investigative report published by Premium Times, where incumbent Governor Dickson of Bayelsa State , ex-Governor Amaechi (Rivers State), ex-Governor Akpabio (Akwa Ibom State) who is also the current Minority leader in the Nigeria’s Senate, and ex-Governor Uduaghan (Delta State)  were said to have engaged in illegal surveillance and hacking activities which involves them breaking into target computers and phones to monitor citizen’s private and confidential conversations on communication devices.

The letter was to demand that President Buhari use his good office to protect the rights of citizens by Investigating and bringing to Justice every one found culpable in these illegal activities.

Copied in the said letter were;  the Vice President, Senate President, Speaker house of representative, Chief Justice of the Federation, Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Justice,  National Security Adviser,  National Human Rights Commission,  Femi Falana Chambers, Nigeria Bar Association, United Nations Human Rights Commission, Freedom House International, Department of State Security Services, United Nations Secretary General, and Amnesty International.  According to the Premium Times report which quoted sources from the National Security Adviser’s office and some of the governments under investigation, the illegal practice of intercepted calls and hacked phones and computers gave these public servants backdoor access  to many people’s private lives, at the expense of taxpayers they swore to serve. Right to privacy is a constitutionally guaranteed right of every Nigerian citizen.

As part of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria’s  Internet Freedom Advocacy efforts, PIN raised an alarm when it was reported in the media that the  Nigerian government under president Goodluck Jonathan invested massively in surveillance equipment as reflected in 2013 and 2014 National Budget. PIN published two Policy Briefs on May 29,2013 and November 29, 2013, to identify the underlying issues and raise public awareness on the implications of these activities. In addition to this, a Freedom of Information request was made to demand  contract details of purchased surveillance equipment as listed in the country’s national budget for 2013 and 2014. The request was denied, following which PIN approached the Court in order to pursue justice.

The constitution is the supreme law in Nigeria and it does provide for freedom of speech, association, rights to privacy, etc. of every citizen. National Security has become a ready excuse for Government to acquire sophisticated technology with capability to monitor and spy private citizens’ online activities or conversations such as email, phone calls and all forms of text/chat messages. The concerns of abuse PIN has consistently raised has once again been confirmed by the Premium times report. PIN has been unequivocal in her demand for protection of online rights of citizens even in the face of security challenges Nigeria currently faces. PIN’s position is that any form of interception, even those for the purpose of security, requires judicial oversight and legislative processes must come first. PIN is currently leading an effort with the NetRightsNG coalition for Nigeria’s Digital Rights and Freedom law to ensure that Citizens rights as established in the 1999 constitution of Nigeria are guaranteed online.

If you would like more information about this topic or further project description on PIN’s Internet Freedom Advocacy work, please call ‘Boye on +234 9 291 63 01 or mail boye.adegoke@pinigeria.org

 

See our earlier stories on the state governors’ hacking expedition below

INVESTIGATION:Nigerian Hacking Governors Forum: Amaechi, Akpabio, Uduaghan hacked phones too

INVESTIGATION: Bayelsa Governor forges End User Certificate to procure N100M hacking tools

INVESTIGATION: Bayelsa Governor distributes gifts of compromised BlackBerry phones, then hacks beneficiaries

Hacking Team, Bayelsa govt’s internet surveillance contractor, hacked

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