An official from the Federal Government has informed a Federal High Court in Lagos that the government has not prevented Nigerians from using the social media network Twitter, and that many Nigerians continue to use it on a daily basis.
That’s according to Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation, and the Federal Government, in a counter-affidavit they submitted in response to an originating petition filed by human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, which was obtained by The PUNCH on Thursday.
The government had suspended Twitter on June 4, 2021, barely two days after the social media platform had removed a post by the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, prompting the suspension (retd.).
Many Nigerians, on the other hand, have managed to get around the Twitter suspension by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
Malami issued a statement in which he threatened to punish Nigerians who continued to use the platform, while the National Broadcasting Commission ordered all radio and television stations to cease utilising Twitter and scooping up content from the social media platform.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed Malami, and the Federal Government were sued by rights lawyer Effiong as a result of the social networking platform’s suspension, according to the lawsuit.
Effiong is seeking nine reliefs in the fundamental human rights suit, which has been assigned the case number FHC/L/CS/542/2021. Effiong is seeking an order of perpetual injunction prohibiting the respondents from further suspending, deactivating, or banning the operation and accessibility of Twitter or any other social media service in Nigeria, on the grounds that the respondents’ actions were in violation of his rights.
It was Effiong who sought the court to declare as illegal the threat of criminal prosecution by Malami and Lai Mohammed against Nigerians who “break” the suspension or prohibition of Twitter, despite the fact that there is no written law to support this claim.
According to an affidavit testified to by Mr Ilop Lawrence on behalf of the Federal Government and the AGF, the suspension of Twitter did not constitute an abuse of human rights because Nigerians continued to use the social media platform despite the suspension of Twitter.
Effiong and the class he wishes to represent can still run those Twitter accounts from anywhere in the world, including Nigeria, according to the ruling, which read in part: In spite of the fact that the Twitter ban is not intended to intimidate Nigerians or to restrict Nigerians’ freedom of expression, Nigerians are still tweeting at this time.
It is important to note that the respondents (the Federal Government and AGF) have never prevented the applicant (Effiong) and the class of people he claims to represent from expressing their thoughts, accessing government information, and offering criticism when appropriate.
Nigerians are still allowed to use alternative sites including as WhatsApp, Facebook, Tiktok, and others, according to the government’s submission to the court.
Additionally, the Federal Government denied knowledge of Twitter removing Buhari’s remark about the Biafra civil war, which offended a large number of Nigerian citizens.
It claimed that Twitter had made its platform available to elements such as Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, and that it had supported the #EndSARS protests in October 2020, which were later hijacked by hoodlums, among others.
Further, the administration asserted that Nigerians should direct their resentment towards Twitter rather than at the government, claiming that Twitter would not have been suspended if it had conformed with the country’s laws.
It informed the court that the suspension of Twitter will be lifted after the platform had registered with the National Broadcasting Corporation and the Corporate Affairs Commission.
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