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Legal Implications of Digital Surveillance in Nigeria

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The concept of digital surveillance is based on the use of digital technology for monitoring and controlling others, usually in security and crime fighting. More advanced, developed countries have bought into this concept of digital surveillance and have been working seamlessly with it, making crimes easy to prevent or at least easy to control.

With the rise of insecurity in the country, the Nigerian government has followed suit and made efforts to combat crime by any means possible. This includes getting necessary equipment and relevant technology which will be optimally beneficial in tracking down criminal activities, generating easy access to data and bringing the perpetrators to book.

Great as it sounds, it goes without saying that surveillance definitely breaches some level of privacy rights on its subject of survey. Legislation concerning surveillance in Nigeria is already on ground, to be referenced in at least two documents;

The Cybercrimes Act 2015 and the Terrorism Act 2011 – which do not depict sufficient protections to privacy rights.

In simpler terms, there may be human right breaches based on the porosity of these acts. It is important to note that other developed countries who introduced and popularized digital surveillance, do not do so without first getting relevant permission and confirming that no privacy rights are being trampled upon.

With a relatively huge amount of investment going into national surveillance, it is safe to assume that the Nigerian government has already implemented these inhumane legislative actions authorizing them to bypass required privacy requisites and obtain private data from citizen’s devices fully without their permission, and this negates the constitutional laws by which the nation is bounded.

According to Section 37 of the Nigerian 1999 constitution, “The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected”.

Internationally accepted standards imply that whatever communication surveillance is being carried out, must be fully necessary and tailored towards achieving a lawful goal. It is also prerogative that the subjects of surveillance are duly notified of the set rules concerning surveillance.

What this means is that based on human right laws, citizens of the country should at least be aware of the developing rules in relation to matters of privacy such as surveillance. This, however has not been done and as earlier highlighted, laws abound which authorize this breach of Nigerian citizens’ human rights to privacy.

So, what does this imply for the average Nigerian citizen? More so, what does it imply legally? Can the legislative arm of government make any adjustments that are more suitable and favorable in terms of human rights? What is the way forward?

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