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SERAP tells Buhari to offset doctors’ allowances with N4.8bn allocated to monitor WhatsApp

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In order to redress the grievances of striking doctors in the country, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to use the proposed N4.87billion for WhatsApp monitoring for the payment of their allowances.

Furthermore, SERAP noted that part of the funds should be used to improve public healthcare facilities for the sake of poor Nigerians.

Ripples Nigeria had reported that President Muhammadu Buhari signed the 2021 supplementary appropriation bill of N983billion into law with about N4.87billion allocated to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) to monitor WhatsApp messages, phone calls, and text messages of Nigerians.

The Federal Government said the allocation was to increase the capacity of intelligence services to tackle cybercrime and counter-terrorism.

However, SERAP in a letter dated 14 August 2021, and signed by deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare revealed that this might lead to repression and persecution of opposition figures, activists, journalists, and others, given the repression of civic space and Twitter ban.

Consequently, the human rights body charged the President to send to the National Assembly a fresh supplementary appropriation bill, which reflects the redirected budget, for approval.

READ ALSO: SERAP urges Buhari to probe alleged misappropriation of N881bn by 367 MDAs

“SERAP is concerned about the failure by your government to resolve the strike by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) over pay, insurance benefits, and poor facilities, the group said.

“Redirecting the proposed spending of N4.8bn would also remove the threats to fundamental human rights of Nigerians, and 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.”

SERAP said all government actions must comply with the Nigerian constitution and the country’s international human rights obligations and commitments.

The letter warned that the threat of mass surveillance can constitute an interference with human rights, including the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.

It was copied to Abukabar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance.

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