THE Nigerian federal government has allocated more than $11 million to the country’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA) to monitor social messaging service WhatsApp, as President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration continues its onslaught to gain control of social media in the country.
According to local media reports on Tuesday, the allocation is earmarked for the ‘WhatsApp Intercept Solution’ and for ‘Thuraya Interception Solution’ – a communications system used for monitoring voice calls or call-related information, SMS, data traffic, among others, reported news website Premium Times Nigeria.com.
This allocation was contained in the supplementary budget approved by the National Assembly on July 7, according to reports.
WhatsApp is the most popular platform used in the country, with more than 90 million users, according to the website Statista.com.
The move comes barely a month after the federal government suspended the operation of social media platform Twitter in the country on June 4.
However, the Abuja based ECOWAS court of justice restrained Buhari’s government from prosecuting people for using social media platform, Twitter, in a landmark court ruling on June 22.
SERAP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, legal and advocacy organisation in Nigeria, said the criminalisation of people using Twitter had escalated the repression of human rights and unlawfully restricted freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom in the country.
Furthermore, according to reports by Pulse Nigeria, the country’s lawmakers are also working on a raft of bills to regulate the media.
Some of these bills include the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act and the Press Council Act.
Many people have raised concerns about the government’s attempts to control social media in the country.
On Monday, a number of major newspapers in the country published the same headline, ‘Information Blackout: This is what the National Assembly wants to achieve with the NPC and NBC (media) amendment bills,’ in protest of the proposed bills to censor the media, reported Premium Times Nigeria.