The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to redirect the proposed N4.87billion for WhatsApp monitoring to striking resident doctors.
The rights group noted that part of the funds should be used to improve public healthcare facilities for the sake of poor Nigerians.
In July, the President signed the 2021 supplementary appropriation bill of N983billion into law.
A little over N4.87billion was allocated to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) to monitor WhatsApp messages, phone calls, and text messages of Nigerians.
Of the figure, N1.93billion was earmarked for ‘WhatsApp Intercept Solution’ and N2.93billion for ‘Thuraya Interception Solution’.
The Federal Government said the allocation was to increase the capacity of intelligence services to tackle cybercrime and counter-terrorism.
But SERAP maintains that the powers to conduct arbitrary surveillance of communications may target opposition figures, activists, journalists and others, given the repression of civic space and Twitter ban.
SERAP told the President to send to the National Assembly a fresh supplementary appropriation bill, which reflects the redirected budget, for approval.
In a letter dated 14 August, 2021, signed by deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the body reminded Buhari of his oath of office to promote efficient and legal spending of public money.
It was copied to Abukabar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance.
“SERAP is concerned about the failure by your government to resolve the strike by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) over pay, insurance benefits and poor facilities, the group said.
SERAP said all government actions must comply with the Nigerian constitution and the country’s international human rights obligations and commitments.
The letter warned that the threat of mass surveillance can constitute an interference with human rights, including the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.
SERAP demanded its request be granted within seven days and that failure to comply will lead to legal actions against the Buhari administration.