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CSOs: NIMC, NCC ignored FOI request on security agencies accessing citizens’ data

CSOs: NIMC, NCC ignored FOI request on security agencies accessing citizens’ data
March 01
20:22 2022

Two civil society organisations (CSOs) say the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) have ‘ignored’ a freedom of information (FOI) request.

The CSOs — Paradigm Initiative (PIN) and Ikigai Innovation Initiative (Ikigai Nation) — said they queried the decision of the NIMC and NCC to grant certain security agencies in Nigeria unfettered access to their databases.

According to them, the query was contained in a letter dated February 11, 2022.

PIN and Ikigai Nation said they demanded answers from the two government agencies based on a statement credited to Isa Pantami, minister of communications and digital economy, that the president approved some law enforcement agencies to have access to citizens’ data domiciled with the NIMC and NCC.

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The NCC and NIMC have statutory mandates to maintain the national identity and SIM card database.

They said although both organisations acknowledged receipt of the request on February 15, 2022, none of them is yet to respond to the questions asked.

The CSOs listed the questions, which they are demanding answers to include: “What legal provisions were relied on to give such access to security agencies? What human rights safeguards exist to monitor the access to databases by law enforcement agents?”

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“What independent oversight mechanisms exist to check accountability and transparency of the activities of law enforcement agents?

“What are the legal and institutional safeguards in place to ensure accountability on the part of the security agencies who have been given access?”

While speaking on the development, Oyindamola Banjoko, program manager at Ikigai Nation, said, “It is our organisation’s considered opinion that a presidential approval for unfettered access to these data is not founded under existing law”.

“Although the government advances the argument of combating insecurity as a legitimate aim, the existing legal framework for surveillance in Nigeria lacks sufficient safeguards.”

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Adeboye Adegoke, senior program manager at Paradigm Initiative, said the “authorisation of the access granted to security agencies is questionable because it violates the provisions of various human rights laws, by giving law enforcement agencies excessive discretion and failing to provide checks and balances to prevent governmental excesses”.

According to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, a public institution is obliged to respond to the request within seven days of receiving it.

On the next step for the organisations, Banjoko hinted that the CSos would explore judicial options to compel the two agencies to provide the information they sought.

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