- Some Nigerian states have been named as engaging in spying without proper authorization
- Some of the governors reportedly involved in the spying both past and present have denied knowledge of any such operations
- Rivers state under Rotimi Amaechi was reportedly the first state to deploy surveillance equipment
During a 2015 investigation it was revealed that governors in four states, located in the Niger Delta, procured cutting-edge spying devices to spy on residents of their respective states, especially politically active opponents.
1. Rivers state
According to Premium Times, former Rivers state governor, Rotimi Amaechi, who is now Nigeria’s transport minister, was the first Nigerian politician to demand a Circle 3G’s telephone tracking technology as far back as 2010.
In a June 30, 2010 offer letter, signed by the then Secretary to the State Government, Sovens Okari, the Amaechi administration invited V&V Limited to supply the gadgets for N2.3 billion.
But the deal failed after the relationship between Mr. Amaechi and V&V Limited became strained.
When contacted at the time, Mr. Amaechi said he was unaware of the project. He argued that there was no record of fund releases for the project.
Two years earlier, Mr. Amaechi, now Minister of Transport, had picked up a similar gadget, the C4i (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence) technology deployed by an Israeli military security firm, MPD Systems.
Mr. Amaechi had described the C4i as a tool to aid federal security in combating militancy and kidnappings within the state. But it was more than that. C4i was considered the perfect federal cover under which Amaechi’s political spying was carried out.
But Ibim Semenitari, Amaechi’s commissioner for information, told Premium Times in the previous report that the administration did not on its own deploy the tools to spy on anyone.
She cited Amaechi’s political fallout with former President Goodluck Jonathan as a clear hindrance for the governor.
“Given the well-publicised infractions between the Rivers State Government and the GEJ (Goodluck Ebele Jonathan)-led federal Government the state would not have been able to embark on the issues raised without the security agencies clamping down on its officials,” Ms. Semenitari said.
She admitted that the state government was running the programme, but said it secured the authorisation of the NSA under former President Umar Yar’Adua.
She also said the program was being run by a joint-team of police and the State Security Service in the state.
2. Bayelsa state
Bayelsa governor, Seriake Dickson, was allegedly exposed by Premium Times as having a Hacking Team, notorious for equipping governments with tools to hack computers and phones.
Mr Dickson’s programme was not known even to the NSA until after the publication of the leaked documents.
Only the federal government has the power to intercept communications or act to suspend rights in the face of national security.
3. Delta state
Former governor of Delta state, Mr Uduaghan, doled out N1.5 billion state funds to sign up for Circles 3G tools in February 2012. He also paid a yearly service fee of N31.9 million, earlier investigation showed.
According to Premium Times, upon expiration of his two-term tenure in May 2015, he handed over the tools to his successor, Ifeanyi Okowa, who immediately signed a two-year contract to extend the maintenance of the service.
Although the police in Abuja own a Circles 3G communication interception service which they pay N63 million annually to maintain, Delta state government argued its gadgets were bought for the police, at the time.
“My boss has no need to monitor any politician,” Ehiedu Aniagu, chief press secretary to Mr. Okowa said.
4. Akwa Ibom state
Godswill Akpabio, former governor of Akwa Ibom, is now a senator. According to Premium Times, he allegedly purchased cyber warfare equipment when he was governor.
Even though the National Security Adviser, in 2012, declined to issue Akpabio an End User Certificate to buy Hacking Team’s cyber warfare tools, the former governor went ahead, anyway.
Top politicians in Akwa Ibom then accused Akpabio of procuring the equipment to target them.
“We knew that he (Godswill Akpabio) acquired a device to monitor people’s telephone calls but there was absolutely nothing we could do,” Umana Okon, an estranged ally of Akpabio who was secretary to the state government when the device was installed, said.
“The device was acquired at the time kidnapping was quite high in the state. But after kidnapping abated, it was used to monitor telephone calls of private citizens and government officials.
“The governor said he won’t ignore the security benefits of the operation,” the source said.
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Our source further stated that the spy operation aided the police work for the time they were allowed to use it.
“The police cannot deny the significant contribution that the surveillance tools made towards their activities,” the source said.
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