The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari for failing to "review and rescind his reported approval for security agencies to access people’s details via NIN-SIM linkage without due process of law.”
President Buhari had in February reportedly given his approval for some security agencies to access the database of the National Identity Management Commission in the course of carrying out their duties.
But in the suit number FHC/L/CS/448/2022 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Lagos, SERAP is asking the court to determine “whether the approval for security agencies to access people’s details via the National Identification Number (NIN) without due process is consistent with the principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality.”
Joined in the suit as Respondents are Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and Mr Isa Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part: “The right to privacy allows Nigerians to hold opinions and exercise freedom of expression without arbitrary or illegal interference and attacks.”
SERAP is asking the court for an order setting aside President Buhari’s approval for security agencies to access people’s details via NIN-SIM linkage without due process of law.
According to the group, it amounts to violations of private and digital communication rights, the right to family life, human dignity and personal liberty.
The group is also asking the court for “an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Federal Government or any other authority, persons or group of persons from unlawfully accessing people’s personal details via NIN-SIM linkage without due process of the law.”
In the suit, SERAP is arguing that: “If President Buhari’s approval is not rescinded, millions of law-abiding Nigerians may feel that their private lives are the subject of constant surveillance.”
According to SERAP, “Interference with an individual’s right to privacy is not permissible if it is unlawful or arbitrary.”
SERAP is also seeking “a declaration that President Buhari’s approval for security agencies to access people’s personal details via NIN-SIM linkage without due process of law is inconsistent with the principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality.”
“While the effectiveness of the fight against serious crime may depend to a great extent on the use of modern investigation techniques, such an objective of general interest, however fundamental it may be, cannot in itself justify the unlawful or arbitrary interference with the right to privacy.”
“If not reversed, the approval would allow security agencies to access the data of the over 73 million Nigerians who have linked their National Identity Number with their SIM, and other people who may do so.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.