The House of Representatives is set to regulate how the police and other security agencies track and monitor telephone and internet communications involving suspected terrorists in Nigeria. The consolidated bill sponsored by Minority Leader of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, Hon Abonta Nkem and Hon. Rotimi Makinde scaled through second reading today after exhaustive debate on the viability of regulating phone and internet conversations between suspected terrorists without infringing on fundamental human right to telephone privacy of innocent citizens.
Leading the debate today on the floor of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila deciphered that indiscriminate and unlawful access to telephone and internet communications made by Nigerians without their consent or public knowledge contradicts the provision of Section 37 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) which states that “right to telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby private and guaranteed and protected” hence, the need to amend the NCC Act to regulate access to communication data of suspected citizens or terrorists.
Gbajabiamila further argued that Section 45 of the 1999 constitution on the otherhand provides that such right to communication privacy can only be abridged through a law vis-à-vis an act of parliament and not through presidential fiat.
However, to avert discriminate abuse of this proposed regulation vis-à-vis citizen’s fundamental human right, the security agencies would only be lawfully granted access to telephone and internet conversation of suspected citizens or terrorists after getting a court order upon application for such data. Furthermore, the security agency must produce evidence of such communication details gathered to the court within 30 days after the initial court order. This caveat is expected to also prevent the Snowden spy controversy and ensure there is no abuse of innocent citizen’s rights in the cause of tracking communication among suspected terrorists. Hon. Abonta and Hon Makinde also thread the same line.