The Federal Government has been monitoring the social media accounts of Nigerians, mostly those suspected of having links with various terrorist groups, including Boko Haram and the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq, and what they termed as ‘radicalised individuals’.
According to new reports, the Federal Government has been spying on Nigerians and security agencies routinely hack into phones, emails, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts of those they are monitoring in a covert operation which has been ongoing for some time. Telephones of Nigerians are also bugged
The project was initiated and is being managed by the office of the National Security Advisor and is reportedly costing the country millions of dollars. An Israeli firm, Elbit System is reportedly one of the foreign firms co-ordinating the domestic spying project for the Federal Government.
According to several unnamed sources who spoke with Punch, the project was approved by former President Goodluck Jonathan before he left office on the request by security agencies in the country. The original aim was to frustrate terrorist operations in the country and the main targets were religious extremists.
“The surveillance system is not being used to target everyone, as people may want to believe. It is only deployed to get intelligence on specific targets because it would be hard and difficult to use such system to spy on all Nigerians; the amount of data would be too huge and staggering for the assessors to sort and manage.
“Basically, the system is used to hack into emails and phones of targets, and the targets are those who are suspected of having ties with terrorists, whether Boko Haram, ISIS or any other criminal element,” a security source told Punch.
Security agents say that the domestic espionage system has “greatly assisted security agencies” to frustrate Boko Haram attacks and electronic trackers have been used in busting kidnapping rings.
Reportedly, such a project is supposed to slow down the ability of terrorists to recruit new members and spread their radical message.
Nigeria’s police spokesman, Emmanuel Ojukwu, confirmed that security agencies in the country were using a sophisticated surveillance system as part of a global measures to combat crime and terrorism in the country.
He said, “It is not a new technology. Everywhere in the world, it is used, including drones and other sophisticated equipment. Nigeria is part of the international community; we have our surveillance system, which shows that Nigeria is developing.”
Ojukwu maintained that the rights of Nigerians were respected and the system was not being used to hack into phones and computers of “innocent Nigerians”.