SERAP sues Buhari over plans to monitor WhatsApp

SERAP sues Buhari over plans to monitor WhatsApp

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari.

The suit was filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Kehinde Oyewumi, on Sunday, October 17.

The group is asking the court to “declare illegal and unconstitutional the plan by the administration to track, intercept and monitor WhatsApp messages, phone calls, and text messages of Nigerians and other people, as it severely threatens and violates the right to the preservation of privacy.”

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1240/2021 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court in Abuja, SERAP is seeking: “an order of perpetual injunction restraining President Buhari and any other authority, persons or group of persons from unlawfully monitoring the WhatsApp messages, phone calls and text messages of Nigerians and other people.”

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SERAP is also seeking “a declaration that any monitoring of WhatsApp messages; phone calls; and text messages is oppressive and draconian; as it threatens and violates sections 37 and 39 of Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended]; Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights; and Articles 17 and 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Nigeria is a state party.”

According to the group, the plan to monitor WhatsApp messages; phone calls; as well as text messages is an arbitrary interference by the administration; into respect for family and private life, the home, as well as correspondence.

“The Buhari administration has legal obligations to protect Nigerians; and other people against arbitrary interference and violations of their human rights. Monitoring of WhatsApp messages; phone calls; as well as text messages would grant free rein to government agencies; to conduct mass surveillance of communications of people,” it said.

“The mere threat of mass surveillance, even when secret, coupled with the lack of remedy; can constitute an interference with human rights; including the rights to privacy; freedom of expression; peaceful assembly, as well as association.

“Privacy and expression are intertwined in the digital age; with online privacy serving as a gateway to secure exercise of the freedom of opinion as well as expression. Therefore, targets of surveillance would suffer interference with their rights to privacy and freedom of opinion and expression; whether the effort to monitor is successful or not.”

Joined in the suit as respondents are the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN); and also the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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