The federal minister of information, Labaran Maku spoke today while being interviewed on Channels Television on the issue of freedom of expression guaranteed under the constitution of Nigeria. The Minister who was dressed in a milk colored ‘babariga’ and a matching ‘hausa’ hat – made the point to the interviewers that Nigeria had the freest ‘freedom of the press’ in the world. While stating this, he added that the recent outcry over the $40million [N6.32billion] contract awarded an Israeli firm to spy on internet users in Nigeria was misplaced and unfair. He added that while he does not have the details to the contract, that the practice is common around the developed world – that is faced with security challenges in the manner Nigeria is faced.
But the Honorable Minister who appeared poised and settled became unraveled and somewhat tongue-tied – when asked by the President denied the news that he had awarded the $40million contract. The unsettled Minister reminded the interviewer that he did not have the details to the contract – and that the move to award the contract was for the general good of the Nigerian citizenry.
It was not clear if the Honorable Minister followed the path of denial which the President did – or whether he followed the path of acknowledging the fact that the President had awarded a secret contract to a foreign firm to monitor Nigerians.
It is recalled that a recent revelation by an investigative online news medium uncovered that the Jonathan administration had secretly in open violation of lawful contracting procedures awarded an Israeli firm, Elbit Systems, with headquarters in Haifa, a $40million contract to help spy on citizens’ computers and Internet communications under the guise of intelligence gathering and national security. Sources indicate that the contract will enable the Jonathan administration access all computers and read all email correspondences of citizens – against constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression.
Available data suggest that Nigerian have quickly become very active on the use of the computer and Internet. They are ranked 10th in a global ranking that make them 27 per cent of Africa’s total Internet users, far ahead of Egypt [19th global ranking] and South Africa [37th in global ranking].
Is there any reason why these contracts are awarded to foreign companies? Could we not fined a Nigerian firm(s) that is capable of doing this tasks?
When are we going to learn to keep and develop our resources at home?