In recent times, there has been constant harassment of citizens in the country by military officers particular the police and the Department of State security Services (DSS) officers over irrelevant issues. This has become bothersome as people, especially techpreneurs and journalists are scared to move around with their gadgets and laptops; while those who ride luxurious cars even though they are not involved in any criminal acts, are seen as criminals.
Recently, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a United States-based organisation, alleged that the Nigerian military now targets phones and computers of journalists in order to extract sources through forensic search.
CPJ, in its latest report released, said security forces in Nigeria now use Universal Forensic Extraction Device (UFED) and Forensic Toolkit (FTK) to retrieve information from devices, adding that UFED was sold by the Israel-based company Cellebrite, while FKT was sold by the US-based AccessData Group.
CPJ said a source in the Nigerian security forces, who disclosed this, explained that he was only bringing the information to light because of concerns about the technology’s possible misuse.
“Nigeria authorities seized a drug lord’s Samsung phone during his arrest and extracted and analysed data from it using UFED. Separately, Cellebrite’s UFED was used in Myanmar to pull documents from the phones of then jailed Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, The Washington Post reported in May 2019. Cellebrite said it required clients to uphold the standards of international human rights law or it may terminate their agreements.”
The report, which also explained journalists’ encounter with security forces, said earlier this year, the military invaded the Abuja office of Daily Trust and carted away 24 computers.
CPJ said: “Hamza Idris, an editor with the Nigerian Daily Trust, was at the newspaper’s central office on January 6 when the military arrived looking for him. Soldiers with AK47s walked between the newsroom desks repeating his name. It was the second raid on the paper that day; the first hit the bureau based in the Northeastern city of Maiduguri, where Idris had worked for years.
“The soldiers did not know what Idris looked like and his colleagues did not point him out. Unable to find their target, they seized 24 of the paper’s computers. In Maiduguri, however, the military arrested Uthman Abubakar, the Daily Trust Northeastern Regional Editor, with his two phones and computer.
“They took the devices to their computer forensics room and conducted forensic search,” the body said.
It described the Daily Trust raid as emblematic of a global trend of law enforcement seizing journalists’ mobile phones and computers.
“Forensics technology designed to extract information from phones and computers is marketed and sold to law enforcement agencies around the world. “Recent Nigerian national budgets feature significant financial allocations to bolster surveillance and digital forensics capacities. From 2014 to 2017, the Nigerian government spent at least N127 billion (over US$350 million) on “surveillance/security equipment,” CPJ said, quoting Paradigm Initiative, a Nigeria-based digital rights group.
Also, there are reports that entrepreneurs are leaving the country for other places as a result of the situation. This will also affect the economy of the country as techpreneurs have lamented that their best brains are jettisoning the nation for other African countries following frivolous victimization from security agents. According to them, they have been perceived as ‘yahoo boys’ just for moving about with laptops and mobile gadgets.
This dangerous perception has become a burden on innocent citizens who have legitimate source of livelihood with their laptops. It is important to note that not everyone with expensive gadgets are involved in illegal businesses. Proper investigation must be done by military officers to avoid public harassment of citizens. It is also imperative for them to have evidence of the crime committed so their actions could be justified.