Is the Federal Government against the media or free speech?
Nigeria’s freedom of speech is going to shit as the FG is setting aside N4.8 billion from the supplementary 2021 budget passed last Wednesday, July 7, 2021 by the national assembly for the National Intelligence Agency to monitor WhatsApp, and Thuraya, a satellite telephone.
The total sum of N982 billion which was approved by the national assembly as the supplementary budget for 2021 will see that The sum of N123 billion goes into recurrent (non-debt) expenditure while N895 billion was earmarked for capital expenditure.
The budget shows that the Police “commands and formation”, Ministry of Defence, The Nigeria Air Force, the Department of State Services (DSS), the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), the purchase of COVID vaccines and the “delivery” of vaccines to every ward/primary health Centre, the procurement and installation of oxygen plants nationwide were all included in the fiscal year.
Premium times claimed that the sum, N1.93 billion was earmarked for “WhatsApp Intercept Solution” and N2.93 billion for “Thuraya Interception Solution” – a communications system used for monitoring voice calls or call-related information, SMS, data traffic, among others.
The Federal government through Nigeria’s lawmakers are infringing on citizens’ freedom of expression, it started a month ago with the ban of the social media platform Twitter denying free speech and blocking people’s sources of income and now steadily moving towards major platforms.
This recent allocation is giving the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) right to monitor whatever you say and on via your WhatsApp messages/calls, phone calls, text messages, among others, soon enough the Lawmakers will be working on a raft of bills aimed at regulating the media which will include the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act and the Press Council Act.
Meanwhile, Enyinnaya Abaribe, Former Deputy Governor of Abia State and Representative of Abia South Senatorial District, in a statement yesterday is of the opinion that the beauty of democracy is in the checks and balances, accommodation of all shades of opinion and allowing free canvassing of viewpoints in the constitution, everybody must enjoy the freedom of expression and association as guaranteed by our constitution. “Without dissenting opinions, democracy loses its kernel. The essence of liberal democracy is the accommodation of different viewpoints, which is warehoused in the interplay of the executive, legislature and judiciary independently in the political system,” Abaribe added.
But will WhatsApp approve of this?