Testing the Law: ‘Gbenga Sesan Makes FOI Request on $40m Internet Surveillance Contract

Okay. So first it was Lawyers ALert taking the Benue state government to task over how the flood relief funds were utilised, now it’s another NGO, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), latching onto the same Freedom of Information act Lawyers Alert used, to ask the federal government for details regarding the alleged $40 million INTERNET surveillance contract supposedly awarded to an Israeli company. So, is Nigeria’s government out to implement some sort of censorship of the internet? I really don’t know but with the tense security situation in the land, it might be a possibility.

I bet a certain former president is nodding his head now and saying to himself ‘I told them not to pass that bill into law but they would not listen!’ Bottom line is, more of these questions need to be asked. More of us need to hold government accountable then, maybe the impunity will be halted. Bravo PIN!


by Rachel Ogbu


Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) has requested relevant records, documents and information on the alleged $40M Internet surveillance contract supported by the 2013 budget and awarded to an Israeli company by the Federal Government.

PIN chief operating officer, Tope Ogundipe, explained why PIN made the Freedom of Information (FoI) request.

Ogundipe stated, “In our letter, signed by PIN’s Executive Director, Mr. ‘Gbenga Sesan, and dated May 2, 2013, we requested relevant records, documents and information on the alleged $40M Internet surveillance contract, as supported by the 2013 budget. We requested details of the contract and its award process, and we have provided adequate contact information (EMail, phone numbers, Lagos and Abuja office addresses) for feedback.”

“In PIN’s ICT Policy work over 5 years, we have had reason to lead campaigns because of legislative language that could hurt Internet Freedom. We are now worried that various actions by government hold the potential of hurting Internet Freedom in Nigeria.”

“On Monday, May 6, 2013, we sent a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to the office of the President’s Special Adviser on Media & Publicity. The letter conveying our FoI request has now been received by the office of the Special Adviser, Media and Publicity. As stated in the Freedom of Information law, signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan, we expect a response to our query within 7 days,” Ogundipe said.

In a press statement, PIN said that the command and control server for FinFisher, a product described by its distributor, Gamma International, as “Governmental IT Intrusion and Remote Monitoring Solutions” has been spotted in Nigeria.

The Nigerian FinFisher server was listed in a new report by the Citizen Lab and the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies at the University of Toronto, Canada. The May 1, 2013, report, “For Their Eyes Only: The Commercialization of Digital Spying”, is available on the Citizen Lab website viahttps://citizenlab.org/for-their-eyes-only.

Paradigm Initiative Nigeria’s Executive Director, ‘Gbenga Sesan, while commenting on the report, said, “Nation States must understand that in this age of quick information turnaround, it is difficult to conceal intentions and actions that could have huge impact on Internet Freedom. For Nigeria, in particular, the country’s history and possible future (context) make it all the more important to watch out for threats to Internet Freedom.” He continued, “Reports that Nigeria awarded a $40M Internet surveillance contract, and the fact that the 2013 budget has provisions for same, is noteworthy.”

According to PIN’s ICT Policy Officer, Godson Ogumka, the fact that Nigeria is already taking steps towards Internet surveillance while the Lawful Interception and Data Privacy bills have not been thoroughly discussed for possible legislative approval raises due concerns.”


Culled from ynaija.com

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