•As Security agents intensify wiretap of phone talks •Extend operations to US, UK, UAE, South Africa, Ghana
•It has to do with security – DHQ
By ADE ALADE and MOLLY KELETE
Just as foreign currencies especially US Dollars and British Pounds are common features in Nigeria’s daily financial transactions, so is the number of international GSM lines in local telephone conversations by state governors, ministers, top security chiefs and several other Very Important Personalities, VIPs to avoid the rising frequent wiretap of private discussions by the nation’s intelligence operatives.
Saturday Sun gathered that the number of political office holders and top government functionaries using foreign telephone lines in Nigeria has in the past few months increased geometrically due to an unprecedented acquisition of “spigot and surveillance equipment by the intelligence agencies especially the Department of State Security, DSS in the last two years to enhance their ability to record, retrieve and analyse conversations of certain persons under profile or surveillance.”
To safeguard their telephone conversations from the reach of security agents, investigations reveal that many serving state governors, current ministers, former governors, a number of heads of federal parastatals and agencies as well as some VIPs who are involved in national politics and who have the financial means have resorted to using GSM lines used in United Kingdom, USA, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Ghana and others to make sensitive telephone calls and discussions.
A serving state governor, who confirmed he’s one of those who recently joined the trend, told Saturday Sun that recent developments in the nation’s political arena have made it expedient for him to join some of his colleaques “who have already ported.”
“That (foreign GSM line) appears to be the safest way to communicate with ourselves under the present hostile political environment in our country. It’s only reasonable that I do as others do”, the state chief executive who prefers not to be named for fear of being misunderstood, stated.
If this class of foreign GSM line users believe they are totally safe from security wiretap, they need to read this. To beat their targets in the game, it was learnt that the intelligence agencies have extended their tentacles to the US, UK, UAE, South Africa, Ghana and others under the guise of counter-terrorism efforts.
Findings reveal that a number of intelligence operatives travel out of Nigeria from time to time to some of the identified countries where they retrieve call logs and other data from the lines of their targets with the aid of their foreign counterparts.
One of the operatives involved in such overseas operations was, until recently, an under-cover agent in a Federal Government-run media house. One of his colleagues confided in one of our reporters that, “the move is a justifiable security assignment but so far, it has been more successful and easier in London (UK) than other jurisdictions.”
He said it’s easy to get the Nigerian users of some United Kingdom GSM numbers because “even though some of them are registered in the names of proxies, technology often reveals the locations where such lines are being used while the data collated on them confirm the true owners or users.” Some of the UK operators, said to enjoy the patronage of Nigerian political office holders and VIPs include T-mobile, Orange, 02, Lebara and Vodafone.
When asked why security agencies have to resort to monitoring phone discussions of political office holders, an obviously stunned Director of Defence Information, DDI at the Defence Headquarters in Abuja, Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade was more anxious to know why one of our correspondents wanted to know about such a sensitive security issue than providing a direct answer.
“Who told you it is DHQ that is monitoring telephone discussion of government officials and VIPs and why do you think so? It has to do with security and DHQ is not the only security agency in the country. So, you should find out who is monitoring phone discussion and not conclude that DHQ is responsible”, the Defence spokesman stated.
Nigeria has of late invested millions of dollars to boost intelligence gathering of most of the nation’s security agencies especially DSS, Defence Intelligence Agency, DIA and Directorate of Military Intelligence, DMI. Contracts for the procurement of most of the wiretap equipment have often gone to Israeli companies because of the Jewish nation’s prowess in intelligence gathering.
One of the latest attempts to invade the privacy of citizens got mired in controversy. The Federal Government was said to have secretly awarded an Israeli firm, Elbit Systems, with headquarters in Haifa, a $40 million contract to help it spy on citizens’ computers and Internet communications under the guise of intelligence gathering and national security.
The House of Representatives has instituted a probe into the award of the contract but the presidency, which is at the centre of it, has kept mute.