Nov. 30, 2013
Ogala Emmanuel; PremiumTimes
While the House of Reps investigative panel dilly dallies on its planned investigations, the Internet Spy device will be installed and “Big Brother” will come alive, somewhere in Abuja, soon.
As the world battles the American government over its invasive Prism project that has snooped on Americans and other world leaders, workers of Israeli defence electronics firm, Elbit Systems, have quietly landed in Abuja, to install a comprehensive spying facility that will help the Nigerian government spy on all online activities by its citizens.
The installation will go ahead despite public outcry and an ongoing legislative probe of the project that followed the leak of the contract by this newspaper, long before Edward Snowden exposed America’s Prism.
The installation is also taking place in complete disregard of the National Assembly which ordered the government to suspend all actions on the contract pending the outcome of a planned investigation.
The presidency had mulled cancellation of the contract after it summoned Elbit Officials, accusing them of not being discreet enough in the handling of the contract.
The Goodluck Jonathan administration secretly, and in open violation of lawful contracting procedures, awarded the Israeli firm, with headquarters in Haifa, a $40million contract to help it spy on citizens’ computers and Internet communications under the guise of intelligence gathering and national security.
Elbit announced it won the contract back in April, in a global press release, where its general manager, Yehuda Vered, opaquely announced that “Elbit Systems will supply its Wise Intelligence Technology (WiT) system to an unnamed country in Africa under a new $40 million contract … for Intelligence Analysis and Cyber Defense.”
Sources within the administration informed PREMIUM TIMES that the officials arrived Abuja over the weekend and had would instal the “big brother” device at the headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency in Abuja.
A team of about 20 Nigerian intelligence officers are currently training in Haifa, Israel – headquarters of Elbit Systems – and are expected to run the spying equipment after its installation.
The first batch of the intelligence trainees are due back in the country next week, our sources say.
Elbit says it will take it two years to complete the project, by which time it claimed, the administration will have “a highly advanced end-to-end solution, [to] supports every stage of the intelligence process, including the collection of the data from multiple sources, databases and sensors, processing of the information, supporting intelligence personnel in the analysis and evaluation of the information and disseminating the intelligence to the intended recipient…[that] will be integrated with various data sources, including Elbit Systems’ Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) solution and Elbit Systems’ PC Surveillance Systems (PSS), an advance solution for covert intelligence gathering.”
The expected implication of the “Big Brother” device, when successful installed, has rattled Nigeria’s growing online community, the civil society, top officials of the Jonathan’s administration who were not privy to the contract, and members of the National Assembly.
Many of them, who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES on conditions of anonymity, raised concern about the invasion of citizens’ privacy as well as the handling of Nigeria’s intelligence gathering process to citizens of another country, Israel.
Elbit Systems admit it is receiving $40 million for the project. But our sources say that is not all the money that was released for the project.
The administration had indicated in the 2013 budget that it would procure a Wise Intelligence Network Harvest Analyzer System, Open Source Internet Monitoring System and Personal Internet Surveillance System at a cost of N9.496 Billion ($61.26 million, based on an agreed official exchange rate of N155 per dollar).
The fate of the balance of $21.26 million from the entire sum earmarked for the project is unclear at the moment. But our sources say it is now clear that the contract was initially awarded a security firm owned by a Nigerian politician and businessman, whose name we are withholding because of our ongoing investigation into the contract.
The businessman and another henchman of President Jonathan are the superintendents of the project, our sources said.
Disregarding National Assembly.
Although many Nigerian internet users and rights activists strongly kicked against the project, Members of the House of Representatives provided what initially appeared the strongest opposition to the project.
While adopting a motion by Ibrahim Shehu Gusau (APC Zamfara) to investigate the contract, the House asked the federal government to suspend the project pending an investigative hearing.
Members argued spying on Internet communications of citizens would violates the privacy of Nigerians provided for in Chapter four, section 37 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
“The contract was awarded under the guise of gathering information to enhance national security; but this may not be the answer to the glaring security challenges of today’s Nigeria. The right to private and family life has been violated,” Mr. Gusau said in his motion.
The House also held that the contract was awarded in clear breach of due process as required by the Fiscal Responsibility Act and Bureau of Public Procurement Act 2007.
PREMIUM TIMES investigations showed that in awarding the contract to the Israeli firm, no tenders or calls for bids were made just as there were no public announcements. The contract was awarded following a proposal from a single vendor who dictated the contract sum and the terms of the contract.
The procedure for public procurement of services, as stipulated by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), the Nigerian agency charged with the duty of ensuring transparency in all matters concerning government contracts, were largely ignored. In addition, there are no public records indicating that the BPP approved this contract.
The manner of award directly contravenes the 2007 Public Procurement Act.
While the Act gives room for single source contracts, the Elbit contract met none of the requirements under which such special contracts could be awarded.
Section 47 (3) (iii) of the 2007 Act stipulates that single source contracts are to be awarded in emergency situations such as “natural disasters or a financial crisis”.
But this week, while the House of Reps investigative panel – committees on ICT, human rights, Justice and anti-corruption – continues to dilly dally on its planned investigations, the “Big Brother” will come alive, somewhere in Abuja.