Data mining: FG investigates Cambridge Analytica’s role in Nigerian elections, PDP reacts

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President Buhari

The federal government has commenced an investigation into reports that a Nigerian billionaire and supporter of former president Goodluck Jonathan paid £2m to Cambridge Analytica, to hack into the email of then leading opposition candidate, Muhammadu Buhari for information that would be used in weakening his chances at the polls.

The consulting firm which combines data mining, brokerage and analysis with strategic communications for electoral process is said to have allegedly swiped the data of more than 50 million Facebook users to sway elections in many countries, including Nigeria, where it was said to have waged a campaign to perpetuate discord and hack into medical records of Buhari

Consequently, the government has set up an in-house committee to investigate whether Cambridge Analytica’s work for the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in 2007 and 2015 general elections campaigns, broke the laws of the country or infringed on the rights of other parties and their candidates, a Presidency official told newsmen.

However, the PDP, in a swift reaction, said All Progressives Congress, APC, and its Federal Government were chasing shadows in their “desperate” plot to implicate it in the alleged hacking into the personal record of its then opposition standard bearer.

The source, who would not want to be named informed State House correspondents at the weekend, that depending on the outcome, this may lead to the appointment of a special investigator and possibly, criminal prosecutions by Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami SAN.

Recall that a whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, who worked with a Cambridge University academic to obtain the data, told the Observer, a UK newspaper:  “We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on.” Among those whose personal data was hacked into in 2015 was the then opposition candidate, Muhammadu Buhari.

The official said, “The government of Nigeria is scrutinising the reports of the data mining firm, Cambridge Analytica, which swiped the data of more than 50 million Facebook users to sway elections in many countries, including Nigeria, where it waged a campaign to perpetuate discord and hack into personal records of the then leading opposition candidate, Muhammadu Buhari”.

“Depending on the outcome, it can lead to the appointment of a special investigator and possibly, criminal prosecutions by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN)”.

When contacted for confirmation of the scoop, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said although he had not been briefed on the issue, Nigerians deserves immediate answers from the PDP administration, Facebook and Cambridge Analytica on how and why they improperly obtained and used data to interfere in Nigeria’s elections.

According to him, “Nigerians deserve answers from the PDP, 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 maiming that have characterised our elections since 2007 and the misinformation activities of the Cambridge Analytica.

“Such investigation will also help President Buhari to achieve his wish to leave a legacy of improved elections.”

Reacting to to the development last night, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, said APC and its Federal Government are chasing shadows in their “desperate” plot to implicate it in the alleged hacking into the personal record of its then presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari.

While welcoming an open investigation into the Cambridge Analytica saga, the now opposition party demanded that such inquest be extended to cover the sources of the looted funds used to prosecute President Buhari’s campaign in 2015.

According to a statement from its spokesman, “It is public knowledge that the document being relied upon by the APC clinically stated that there is no suggestion that Jonathan knew of the covert operation.

“We are, therefore, aware that this new agenda is to divert public attention from the various scandalous allegations hanging on the neck of the Buhari Presidency, including the use of looted funds to finance his 2015 Presidential election, the Martin Luther Kings award saga, the damaging Bill Gates’ verdict on the Buhari’s economic policies as well as the numerous financial scandals in the NNPC under his watch.

“This inquest should, therefore, be completely open and independent of government control, so that Nigerians will know the truth, not only on the Cambridge Analytica saga, but also on the source of funds for the President’s 2015 campaign and other sleazes under his watch,” PDP said.

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