Two civil society organizations (CSOs); Paradigm Initiative (PIN) and Ikigai Innovation Initiative (Ikigai Nation), have expressed disappointment over the inability of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) to respond to their Freedom of Information (FoI) request.
In the letter dated 11th February 2022 the organisations, said they ‘queried the decision of the NIMC and NCC to grant certain security agencies in Nigeria, unfettered access to their databases’.
NCC and NIMC have statutory mandates to maintain the National identity and SIM card database respectively.
Although both organisations acknowledged receipt of the request on February 15, 2022, the CSOs said none of them has yet to respond to the questions asked.
“PIN and Ikigai nation are demanding answers from the two government agencies on the basis of the statement credited to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Pantami, that this is in line with the President’s approval granting some law enforcement agencies access to databases domiciled with the NIMC and NCC.
While speaking on the development, Oyindamola Banjoko, Program Manager at Ikigai Nation said, “It is her 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,” Banjoko concluded.
“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,” says Adeboye Adegoke, Senior Program Manager at Paradigm Initiative.
The questions for which the organisations are demanding answers 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?
- 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?
According to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, a public institution is obliged to respond to such a request within 7 days of receiving it.
On next steps for the CSOs, Banjoko hinted that the organisation may be compelled to explore judicial options to compel NIMC and NCC to provide the information they sought.