The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has urged the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Retired), to use his “good offices and position of leadership to urgently review and rescind your flagged endorsement for the security agencies access personal data of individuals via NIN-SIM link without due legal process.
SERAP also urges the President to “send Bills to the National Assembly to repeal and reform all laws which are inconsistent and inconsistent with the rights of Nigerians to privacy, dignity and liberty.”
SERAP’s letter follows reports that some security agencies have received presidential approval to access people’s personal data through the National Identity Management Commission database as part of the exercise. of their functions.
In the letter dated February 5, 2022 and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “If your endorsement is not rescinded, millions of law-abiding Nigerians may feel that their lives privacy is under constant surveillance”.
SERAP said: “The interference caused by unlawful or arbitrary access to individuals’ personal data is considerable and must be considered particularly serious.”
“The announced approval to allow security agencies to access individuals’ personal data via the NIN-SIM link without due process directly interferes with the privacy, dignity and freedom of individuals.”
SERAP also said, “Interference with an individual’s right to privacy is not permitted if it is unlawful or arbitrary.”
The letter said in part: “The power to access an individual’s details raises serious concerns about their arbitrary use by authorities charged with applying them in a way that undermines human rights and democratic principles. through the control and surveillance of millions of Nigerians.
“Revealing consent and respecting the autonomy of individuals to receive and share information of a personal nature without interference from authorities is crucial if unintended adverse consequences are to be avoided.
“The risk of arbitrary or abusive interference shows the importance for your government to fully respect the requirements of legality, necessity and proportionality.
“The right to privacy enables Nigerians to hold opinions and exercise freedom of expression without arbitrary or unlawful interference and attacks.
“Private conversations of individuals – which belong to their intimate sphere and contribute to their personal development – also enjoy strong legal protection and can only be limited on the basis of the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality.
“The presidential approval reported to security agencies is inconsistent with the principle that any restriction on human rights that may be limited must be the least intrusive means possible, and must be necessary and proportionate to the benefit sought.
“Violations or abuses of the right to privacy can affect the enjoyment of other human rights, including the right to freedom of expression and to hold opinions without interference.
“SERAP notes that the right to privacy can enable the enjoyment of other rights and the free development of an individual’s personality and identity, as well as an individual’s ability to participate in political life, economic, social and cultural.
“Compared to the requirement of legality, any limitation must be expressly, exhaustively, precisely and clearly provided for by a law in the formal and material sense. It is not enough for the restrictions to be formally approved by the president or any other competent body: they must also be sufficiently clear, accessible and predictable.
“Similarly, measures restricting the enjoyment of the right to respect for private life must respect the principle of proportionality, that is to say they must not unduly affect the other rights of the persons concerned.
“In the digital age, protecting the right to privacy requires exceptional attention. While acknowledging the difficult issues that your endorsement may seek to address, SERAP is seriously concerned that this may be used as a pretext by security agencies to violate Nigerians’ right to privacy and other related human rights.
“The attack on the universality of fundamental human rights, as well as the potential encroachment on the enjoyment of the right to privacy raised by the presidential endorsement, suggests the urgent need to examine the matter and to revoke your approval, in accordance with constitutional and international standards.
“SERAP finds that the relationship between data originators and authorities involves an imbalance of power. Nigeria should lead the way in developing a data protection framework that is fully consistent and compatible with the protection of the fundamental and inalienable right to privacy.
“According to reports, some security agencies have received your approval to access personal data of individuals through the National Identity Management Commission database in the performance of their duties. Communications and Digital Economy Minister Isa Pantami reportedly forwarded the approval to the relevant security agencies.
“Mr. Pantami also reportedly said the approval would increase security as it would help security officers pursue kidnappers and other criminals.
“The approval would now allow security agencies to access the data of the more than 73 million Nigerians who have linked their national ID number to their SIM card, and others who may do so.
“While the effectiveness of the fight against serious crime may depend to a large extent on the use of modern investigative techniques, such an objective of general interest, however fundamental it may be, cannot in itself justify the unlawful or arbitrary interference with the right to privacy.
“Unlawful or arbitrary access to personal data of individuals would contravene Section 37 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), Section 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which protects against arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy.
“Any constraint on the right to privacy must strictly respect the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality. These requirements are included in the Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party.
“We would appreciate it if you take the recommended action within 7 days of receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP will take all appropriate legal action to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.
Copies of the letter were sent to Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and Mr. Isa Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.
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