The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari, requesting that the court “declare illegal and unconstitutional the current administration’s plan to track, intercept, and monitor WhatsApp messages, phone calls, and text messages of Nigerians and others.”
According to SERAP, it poses a serious threat to and breaches the right to privacy.
The complaint was filed in response to a proposal in the Supplementary Appropriation Act signed in July 2021 to spend N4.87 billion on monitoring private calls and communications.
The sum was included in the N895.8 billion supplementary budget approved by the National Assembly.
SERAP is seeking “an order of perpetual injunction restraining President Buhari and any other authority, person, or group of persons from unlawfully monitoring the WhatsApp messages, phone calls, and text messages of Nigerians and other people” in the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1240/2021 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
SERAP’s lawyers, Kehinde Oyewumi and Kolawole Oluwadare, filed the lawsuit.
“The Buhari administration has legal responsibility to protect Nigerians and other individuals against arbitrary interference and abuses of their human rights,” the suit stated in part.
Monitoring WhatsApp chats, phone conversations, and text messages would give government agencies carte blanche to conduct widespread surveillance of people’s communications.”
Respondents in the suit include Abubakar Malami, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, and Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning.
The date for the suit’s hearing, however, has not yet been set.