The Department of State Services has alleged that the All Progressives Party planned to hack the database of the Independent National Electoral Commission while the party has dismissed the allegation as hogwash
| By Maureen Chigbo | Jan. 19, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
THE Department of State Services, DSS, and All Progressives Party are at daggers drawn over the invasion of the latter’s office in Lagos since late 2014. The altercation between organisation intensified on Wednesday, January 7, when the DSS at a press briefing in Abuja, alleged that its investigations showed that the All Progressives Congress, APC, planned to clone the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC’s, database.
Marilyn Ogar, deputy director, Public Relations, DSS, recalled that on November 24, 2014, the DSS issued a press statement on a security operation conducted at No. 10, Bola Ajibola Street, Ikeja, Lagos, on November 22.
The operation followed actionable information the DSS received stating that the building was being used for cloning of INEC Permanent Voters Card, PVC, by some unscrupulous persons with intent to hack into INEC database, corrupt it and replace same with their own data. The Service immediately took appropriate steps to investigate same by first seeking and obtaining a search warrant as required by law.
This is contrary to claims by the APC that the building was accessed illegally. However, when the DSS arrived at the building, its officers found that it did not have any signpost, banner or flag of any company or political party. In the course of its investigation, the DSS discovered a temporary voters card, a permanent voters card; one of the hard drives recovered from the building contained a video of 21 hacking tutorials. The tutorial video focused on how to become a hacker and steps to take to avoid detection in the process of hacking web servers; steps and procedures of system hacking, passwords cracking, decrypting, escalating access privileges, and creating backdoors to servers. It also explicitly explained how to evade security of databases such as Intrusion Detection Systems, IDS, firewalls, and other measures put in place to deter hackers.
According to DSS, the video outlined ways to identify vulnerabilities in systems and how to surreptitiously drop a USB flash drive in a target establishment, which when plugged into any computer, transmits malicious codes enough to gain access into and compromise the entire system of the target organisation. Also, the video explains how to hack into the systems of media houses, with the aim of broadcasting fake stories or headlines.
The DSS also discovered that the APC registered under-aged persons including several infants and babies as members of the party. “We know that Article 9.1 of the APC Party Constitution expressly says: “membership of the party shall be open to any citizen of Nigeria who has attained the age of eighteen (18) years and accepts the aims and objectives of the Party…”, Ogar said.
Similarly, the APC registered several security personnel from the Nigerian Army, NA, the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, among others, in their uniforms as members of the party, it said.
According to the DSS, the APC had multiple registrations of individuals in multiples of 16, 12, and 10; several foreigners were also registered as its members and the APC also filled forms without passport photographs, and have books containing names of people with their phone numbers. “Equally discovered were several envelopes containing passport photographs of various individuals; From the foregoing, we suspect that there was an elaborate and well-articulated plan to inflate the party’s membership data as well as hack into INEC’s voter registration database through the creation of party membership forms and cards to match INEC’s voters register across the country,” Ogah said.
According to DSS, “Facts are sacred and opinion free. The arrested suspects have since been charged to Court, and at the moment investigation is still ongoing. We shall update the public of further developments,” she said.
Ogar said: “We wish to note that contrary to the free opinions variously expressed by the APC publicity secretary and a number of uninformed members of the public on the action of the Service, truth remains sacred and sacrosanct. Alain Badao once admonished that “even in a democracy, free opinion, an opposite of truth, must be separated completely and cannot enjoy the same latitude”.
However, the APC has described as hogwash the so-called findings of the DSS following its Gestapo-like raid on the party’s offices in Lagos. It said the ‘findings’ presented to the media by the agency was a great disservice to Nigeria and an embarrassment to all intelligence-gathering organisations around the world.
Lai Mohammed, National Publicity Secretary, of APC, in a statement issued in Abuja, same Wednesday described the timing of the release of the ‘findings’ as a plot orchestrated in collusion with the PDP to distract the APC from its ongoing campaigns for next month’s elections.
It described as disingenuous, flimsy, premeditated, partisan and an irritant the conclusion that the APC had an “articulated plan to inflate the party’s membership data as well as hack into INEC’s voter registration database through the creation of party membership forms and cards to match INEC’s voters register across the country”.
“First the DSS and the PDP said the APC was cloning Permanent Voters Cards at the raided office, without a shred of evidence. Now, after a ‘painstaking’ investigation, the DSS has found out that the APC was only planning to inflate its membership data and then hack into INEC’s database. And this is the outcome of its massive, months-long investigations?
“This would have been funny if it were not from a primary domestic intelligence agency saddled with a great responsibility. Can this wishy-washy report stand any serious scrutiny? Can any serious intelligence gathering agency anywhere else in the world take this report seriously? With these kind of findings, one can now understand why Boko Haram has continued to strike at times and places of its own choosing without any prior knowledge by our all-powerful DSS.
“Even the presentation of the report by a poorly-trained and highly-politicised spokesperson of the DSS worsened the so-called findings. Why would the spokesperson of a national agency sound like a megaphone for the ruling party, freely castigating the opposition spokesman and, a number of uninformed members of the public?” Why does she have to go personal in presenting a report that supposedly is in the national interest?
“We have always warned that our democracy is in clear and present danger, not just from desperate politicians, but also from institutions of state that have compromised in their roles and resorted to crass lawlessness. The DSS’ ‘findings’ today have given us another reason to repeat this warning.
“While we are willing to meet the DSS in court, we can confidently say that the ‘confessions’ extracted from the arrested persons, after they were subjected to incredible acts of torture, cannot even stand in any court of law,” APC said.
The party recalled that in its statement of Dec. 5, 2014, it accused the DSS of resorting to the use of torture to obtain forced confessions from those who were arrested during the first raid on the party’s Data Centre in Ikeja.
“In that statement, we called the action of the DSS a contravention of the UN Convention against Torture to which Nigeria is a signatory and a violation of the citizens’ fundamental human rights.
“We also said the DSS shackled the hands and legs of those arrested and blindfolded them while they were being taken to Abuja. The arrested persons remained in chains even at the dark detention cell where they were made to sleep on the bare floor for the 10 days they were detained illegally.
“Guns were pointed at their heads by DSS personnel who threatened to shoot them, while a pregnant woman among those who were arrested was denied access to her drugs even when she started bleeding due to the torture to which she was subjected by the DSS. Now the DSS has confirmed what we said in that press statement. Is anyone still surprised at the action of countries that are distancing themselves from Nigeria over human rights violations?” it queried.
APC said the impending release of the ‘great findings’ by the DSS after its investigations must have been the reason why the agency recently threatened it would arrest any politician who makes inciting comments, implying that the DSS needed to silence all so that no one will dare criticize its “earth-shaking ‘findings’.”
Nonetheless, some Nigerians have weighed in their opinion about the actions of the APC and the DSS. It is difficult to know which side is telling the truth with any hard evidence being given to the public. There are people who believe that both sides are not telling the truth while others think that the DSS should move from suspicion to providing concrete evidence about the allegations they are making.
Frank Odita, former commissioner of police and security consultant told Realnews on telephone that “suspicion is not an offence” and that DSS should not be talking about it unless they have concrete evidence against APC which they should expose promptly. “What they are saying is suspicion which is nothing. We are looking forward to electing a government we can trust in February. If there is anything about the party seeking to govern the country, it should be exposed. Suspicion is nothing”, Odita said.