The Nigerian Government led by President Muhammed Buhari has allocated total of N4.8 (4,870,350,000) billion to monitor media, WhatsApp messages, phone calls, text messages and other social media among others.
Penpushing reports that, the money has been allocated to the National Intelligence Agency(NIA) as contained in the supplementary budget approved by the National Assembly last Wednesday in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory(FCT).
The sum of N1.93 billion of the figure was earmarked for “WhatsApp Intercept Solution” and N2.93 billion for “Thuraya Interception Solution” a communications system used for monitoring voice calls or call-related information, SMS, data traffic, among others.
The budgetary allocation is coming amidst several attempts by the Buhari administration to limit freedom of expression in the country ,an act majority of people within and outside the country regarded as a means to gag the media.
Penpushing also reports that, this in the same vein, is coming barely a month after the Nigerian Government suspended the operation of Twitter in the country on June 4, while it is on record that the federal lawmakers, are in the process of amending several media bills with the aim of “regulating the media.”
Penpushing further reports that, it is recalled that, the National Assembly had approved and passed a supplementary budget of N982 billion (982,729,695,343) for the 2021 fiscal year, against the N895 billion proposed by Buhari, indicating an increase of about N87 billion.
The supplementary has it that, while N123.3 billion was fixed for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure, N895 billion was earmarked for contribution to the Development Fund for Capital Expenditure for the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2021,
Penpushing also reports that, another N45 billion was approved for foreign aid/loans, while in a related development, some of the bills being proposed by the lawmakers include the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act and the Press Council Act.
The Minister of information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, it is recalled in June encouraged the House of Representatives to include internet broadcasting under the control of the National Broadcasting Commission( NBC).
Penpushing reports that, Mohammed emphasised that all online and internet broadcasting entities should be included in section two (c) of the bill which gives powers to the National Broadcasting Commission(NBC) to receive, process and consider applications for the establishment, ownership of radio and television stations
The proposals are contained in the Press Council Amendment bill, while the bills, if passed with the recommendation of the controversial Minister, online media entities will have to get approval from the National Broadcasting Commission(NBC) before operating.
Penpushing further reports that, in view of this ugly development, major newspapers on Monday in protest, published the same headlines calling on the National Assembly to halt the amendments.
The protest was sponsored by the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Nigerian Guild of Editors and Newspapers’ Proprietors Association of Nigeria, with the headlines;’ Information Blackout: This is what the National Assembly wants to achieve with the NPC and NBC (media) amendment bills,”
Penpushing also reports that, in the supplementary budget N11.48 billion was allocated to the Defence Headquarters for the purchase of ammunition and another N15.8 billion for the purchase of vehicles and generators.
The Nigerian Army headquarters received N37.6 billion for ammunition, N14.8 billion for arms and N 48.6 billion for “vehicle requirement, while N96.5 billion was also allocated to the agency for “payment for purchase of defence equipment, but. the equipment was, however, not clearly stated.
Penpushing reports that, in similar vein, the Nigerian Navy got N36.5 billion for “arms and ammo requirement” and N140.7 billion was allocated to the Nigerian Air Force for “additional aircraft requirement.”
The Department of State Security, under the budget got a total of N6.5 billion for the construction of multipurpose gatehouses and installation of integrated security systems of the National Assembly.
Penpushing further reports that, N1 billion was approved for constitution review, N6.7 billion has been allocated for procurement and installation of new oxygen plants nationwide and repairs of oxygen plants in hospitals in the Federal Capital Territory.
The Nigerian government explained that the budget is specifically meant to enhance the capacity of the military and paramilitary agencies to tackle the various security challenges in the country.
Meanwhile, President of the Senate, Senator, Ahmad Lawan, in his remarks admonished relevant committees of the upper legislative chamber to carry out oversight and ensure that the funds are properly utilised.
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