A committee set up by the Federal Government to investigate the recent revelation that ahead of the 2015 general election a Nigerian billionaire and supporter of former President Goodluck Jonathan, paid £2m to Cambridge Analytica, to hack into the medical records of President Muhammadu Buhari, then candidate of the All Progressives Congress, had demanded more information from some countries.
Our correspondent learnt on Monday that the committee had written to the United Kingdom and the United States of America over the matter.
The committee was set up to probe the report that suggested that the consulting firm that combines data mining, brokerage and analysis with strategic communication for electoral process manipulated Nigeria’s 2007 elections by organising campaigns to weaken the chances of opposition parties.
The government set up the in-house committee to investigate whether the firm’s work for the then ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, in 2007 and 2015 general election campaigns broke the laws of the country or infringed on the rights of other parties and their candidates.
Depending on the outcome, the Federal Government is considering appointing a special investigator and possibly start criminal prosecution by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
A top Presidency official familiar with the committee’s work told our correspondent on condition of anonymity on Monday about the panel’s communication with the UK and the US.
He said, “You will recall that when the news broke, the government set up what we called an in-house committee to investigate the matter.
“The last I heard about that committee was that they have written to the US and the UK for more information on what happened.
“I am yet to find out if those countries have responded and the stage which the committee is now.”
When contacted on the matter, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, promised to find out the latest on the matter on his return to Abuja after President Muhammadu Buhari’s ongoing two-day visit to Jigawa State.
Shehu had earlier said although he had not been briefed on the issue, it was the right of Nigerians for the PDP, Facebook and Cambridge Analytical to explain their roles in the matter.
The presidential spokesman had said that a proper investigation would reveal if there were correlations between the violence that had characterised past elections in the country and the revelation.
He had said, “Nigerians deserve answers immediately from the PDP administration, Facebook and Cambridge Analytica on how and why they improperly obtained and used data to interfere in Nigerian elections.
“An investigation should help to determine if there is a linkage between the various killings and maimings that have characterised our elections since 2007 and the misinformation activities of the Cambridge Analytica data flows.
“Such investigations will also help President Buhari to achieve his wish to leave a legacy of improved elections.”
A former employee of Cambridge Analytica, Christopher Wylie, had revealed to British lawmakers how an Israeli spy firm “Black Cube” was engaged to hack Buhari’s data to get access to his medical records.
He had alleged that Cambridge Analytica utilised the services of an Israeli private intelligence firm, Black Cube, to hack Buhari’s data.
Cambridge Analytica had earlier been hired by an unnamed Nigerian billionaire to support the re-election of former President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election in which Buhari was his main challenger.
According to reports, SCL Elections, a public relations firm that later became Cambridge Analytica, manipulated Nigeria’s 2007 elections by organising campaigns to weaken the chances of opposition parties.
As part of its engagement, the company organised “anti-election rallies” to demoralise opposition supporters from voting in the elections, which saw the emergence of Umaru Yar’Adua as Nigeria’s president.
The Cambridge Analytica team came up with a video to portray Buhari as a leader who would enforce Sharia Law in Nigeria with the intention to sway the minds of millions of Nigerians and vote for the PDP candidate.
The Cambridge Analytica and Facebook were focus of an inquiry into data and politics by the British Information Commissioner’s Office, the United States Special Counsel Robert Mueller and, separately, the UK Electoral Commission is also investigating what role Cambridge Analytica played in the EU referendum.
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