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Pay striking doctors with N4.8bn earmarked for WhatsApp calls’ monitoring, SERAP tells Buhari


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THE Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to pay the salaries of striking resident doctors from the proposed N4.8 billion intended for monitoring WhatsApp messages.

This was revealed in an open letter signed by SERAP’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, who called on President Buhari to use the proposed N4.8 billion of Nigerians to pay the striking doctors.


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“Redirecting the proposed spending of N4.8bn would be entirely consistent with your constitutional oath of office, and the letter and spirit of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended], as it would promote efficient, honest, and legal spending of public money.

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“To ensure access to quality healthcare for the socially and economically vulnerable people who rely on public hospitals, and have no opportunity for medical treatment elsewhere,” he said.

The doctors had embarked on a strike on April 1 to protest the failure of the government to fulfil an agreement signed with the union.

It was suspended on April 10, following the signing of a new agreement with the federal government, concerning issues raised in a 13-point demand.

The doctors commenced a fresh nationwide strike on August 2 and have vowed not to call off the strike until the Federal Government meets all their demands.

Describing the decision as a violation of the human rights of Nigerians, the group also stated that the spending of public monies on mass surveillance did not fall within the ambit of the constitution.

“The proposed spending also fails to meet the requirements of public interests, legality, necessity, and proportionality. Additionally, the lack of any safeguards against discriminatory decision-making, and access to an effective remedy shows the grave threats it poses to constitutionally and internationally recognized human rights.

“The mere threat of mass surveillance, even when secret, coupled with the lack of remedy, can constitute an interference with human rights, including the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association,” the group said.

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The organisation also called on the Federal Government to move swiftly within seven days to follow its recommendations or face legal actions.

“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest,” the group concluded.

The Federal Government had earmarked the sum of N4.8 billion in the 2022 proposed budget for the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) to monitor WhatsApp, an encrypted messaging application, and Thuraya, a satellite telephone.

An estimated N1.93 billion was slated for “WhatsApp Intercept Solution” and N2.93 billion for “Thuraya Interception Solution”, a communications system used for monitoring voice calls or call-related information, SMS, data traffic, amongst others.

Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.

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