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Cabinet policy obliges ministers to delete instant messages

Cabinet

Cabinet policy obliges ministers to delete instant messages

Ministers and civil servants are required by cabinet policy to set instant messaging chats to delete automatically, it has been revealed, as a judicial review over the government’s use of self-destructing messages was given the go-ahead.

The not-profit organisation the Citizens says the use of disappearing messages, which has been described as “government by WhatsApp”, violates British law on public records and freedom of information.

Its legal challenge comes amid concerns that the likes of WhatsApp and Signal, which have a disappearing messages option, are being used to avoid scrutiny of decision-making processes, including on significant issues such as the government’s coronavirus response.

At a high court hearing in London on Tuesday, it was revealed that the Cabinet Office’s “information and records retention and destruction policy”, disclosed in response to the Citizens application for a judicial review, obliges officials to delete instant chats.

The policy says: “Instant messaging is provided to all staff and should be used in preference to email for routine communications where there is no need to retain a record of the communication. Instant messages history in individual and group chats must be switched off and should not be retained once a session is finished. If the content of an instant message is required for the record or as an audit trail, a note for the record should be created and the message content saved in that.”

The Citizens says making a separate note, as opposed to preserving the actual message, is insufficient to comply with the law. Other documents disclosed ban the use of personal phones, email and WhatsApp by ministers and civil servants. The Citizens, which is being supported by the campaigning law group Foxglove, says the policies are “a confusing, contradictory mess”.

It is challenging the lawfulness of:

  • Use for government business of instant messaging services that allow messages to be automatically deleted, permanently, within a short period of receipt by ministers, civil servants and special advisers.
  • Cabinet Office policy requiring the use of automatic deletion within all instant messaging services.
  • Use for government business of personal devices, email and communications applications in breach, it says, of the government’s own policies.

After Mrs Justice Lang granted permission for the case to go to full judicial review, Clara Maguire, the director of the Citizens, said: “This is a good day for democracy. Lack of transparency has been at the heart of the UK government’s disastrous handling of the Covid catastrophe as today’s parliamentary report points out so clearly.

“It says that a culture of secrecy contributed to tens of thousands of excess deaths. We believe this case goes to the very heart of this problem and we look forward to proving government by WhatsApp is not only dangerous but also unlawful.”

The non-profit organisation argues the use of instant messaging makes it impossible to carry out required legal checks about whether a message should be archived for posterity. Information that could be useful to a public inquiry, or otherwise fall within the scope of a freedom of information request, may be lost as a result.

Cori Crider, the director of Foxglove, said: “Government by WhatsApp is an existential threat to Britain’s historical record. From people in positions of public trust, the law – and the country – require more.”

In July, the information commissioner announced an investigation into the use of private correspondence channels at the Department of Health and Social Care.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Ministers will use a range of modern forms of communication for discussions, in line with legislative requirements, and taking into account government guidance.”

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I Will Soon Start Signing Death Warrants- Bala Mohammed

Bauchi state governor, Bala Mohammed has disclosed that he will soon start to sign death warrants.

Mohammed made this known on Friday in Bauchi while signing the Violence against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) bill and a bill for the establishment of the Bauchi state penal code, into law.

In Nigeria, state governors are legally backed to sign the death warrants.

Since 2012, no governor has been reported to have signed death warrants.

“We will soon be signing some death sentences because there are many and because of justice which has to be taken to a logical conclusion

“I know some governors are running away from signing the death sentences because they exercise restraints on the basis that there may be some element of error.

“But to me, I will leave it to my lord (the chief judge) who will prosecute. It’s not my fault. If it is brought to my attention, I will do it.”

“As for the Violence against Persons Prohibition Act, we know that we are the first in the northern part of the country to enact the law, which is a member’s bill incidentally from the honourable speaker, and it has earned us a lot of respect in the country.

“But because of some noticed gaps, it was taken back and it was corrected. We thank the house for making the corrections.”

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Court Sacks 13 Ebonyi LG Bosses, 171 Councilors

A Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki has again nullified the Ebonyi Local Government Elections and sacked all the 13 Council chairmen in the state.

The court also sacked all the councilors and 171 ward chairmen of the state.

The court had on Aug. 25, nullified the council polls of May 31.

Ruling on the matter with suit NO: FHC/AI/CS/224/2022 on Friday, Justice Fatun Riman ordered the seizure of the monthly federal allocation of the chairmen pending when rightful Chief Executives were elected into office.

Fatun restated that the councils election by the State Independent Electoral Commission (EBSIEC) on May 31 was illegal and unconstitutional.

Mr Mudi Erenede, Counsel to the plaintiff said he was happy over the judgment and commended the court.

“In the judgement today, the court has agreed that the Ebonyi State High court has no powers to override or set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court because it is not an Appeal Court.

“Those people, who are parading themselves as chairmen are not there legally.

“They were appointed by whoever that appointed them. CBN, Attorney General of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Finance are all defendants in this suits,” he stated.

The counsel to Ebonyi State Government, Mr Roy Nweze, said there was no need responding to a judgment that had already been delivered by the court.

Nweze said that the matter would be appealed without delay.

(NAN)

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Naval College Graduates 245 Officers, Personnel

The newly graduated personnel of the Officers’ Application Course 20 of the Nigerian Naval Engineering College (NNEC), Sapele in Delta, have been urged to remain committed to the service of the nation.

Rear Adm. Monday Unurhiere, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Naval Training Command, made the plea at the graduation ceremony of the 245 Under Training Personnel of the Officers’ Application Course 20 in Sapele.

Unurhiere, represented by Rear Adm. Baratuaipri Iyalla, said that the call became necessary in view of the security, economic and social challenges currently facing the country.

The naval chief urged the graduands to make deliberate efforts to improve themselves on the job by way of taking advantage of modern technology and also tapping into the wealth of experience of their superiors.

“Let me remind you that as officers of the Nigerian Navy, you are charged with enormous responsibility and your unswerving allegiance is to the Nation.

“The confidence reposed in you must not be taking for granted, especially at this time that our national aspirations are being threatened by numerous security, economic and social challenges.

“As such, you may find yourself being called upon to serve beyond your technical capability due to the prevailing situation in the country,” he said.

Unurhiere acknowledged the efforts of the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Adm. Awwal Gambo, for creating the enabling environment for training and continued financial support to NNEC.

According to him, this has helped the College to contribute more to the technological advancement of Nigerian Navy and the nation at large.

He urged the graduands, especially the under training personnel, to maintain the current tempo in sustaining training and other naval activities.

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