NBA, PDP, Reps minority leader faults and threatens legal action against FG over Twitter ban as Malami orders prosecution of offenders

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has threatened legal action against the federal government if it doesn’t rescind its decision to suspend indefinitely operations of Twitter in the country.

In a similar manner, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has described the federal government’s decision to suspend Twitter as “barbaric and vexatious”. In addition, the main opposition party says the development is “primitive intolerance and power intoxication”.

The Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives has condemned as well the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria by the Federal Government describing it as a clear violation of freedom of speech and other democratic rights and tenets as provided by the 1999 constitution.

The lawmakers, in a statement by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu, on Saturday, described the suspension as “provocative, obnoxious and unjustifiable”.

Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, had said Friday, the social media platform was undermining Nigeria’s existence, hence the decision to suspend its operations in Nigeria.

President of the NBA Olumide Akpata in a series of tweet on Friday while condemning the move by the Nigerian government noted that the decision to suspend the microblogging social media service was an infringement on the rights of citizens to freely express their constitutionally guaranteed opinions through the medium.

He also stated that the directive by the federal government to the Nigeria Communications Commission to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in the country is another disguised attempt to regulate social media, restrict freedom of speech and shrink civic space.

“The Nigerian Bar Association has noted with great concern the extraordinary decision of the federal government to suspend the operations of Twitter in Nigeria and, by necessary implication, the right of Nigerians to freely express their constitutionally guaranteed opinions through that medium,” the NBA said.

“The FGN also directed the @NgComCommission to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria, which is, at best, yet another disguised attempt to regulate social media, restrict freedom of speech and shrink civic space.

“Whether one likes it or not, we are operating a constitutional democracy, the primary consequence of which is that everything must be done according to law; government must be conducted within the framework of recognised rules and principles which restrict discretionary power.

“The @NigBarAssoc finds no constitutional or legal authority to support the peremptory action of the Federal Government to suspend the operations of Twitter in Nigeria. Beyond the dent on our constitutional democracy, at a time when the Nigerian economy is unarguably struggling, the impact of arbitrary decisions such as this on investor confidence is better imagined.

“Consequently, if this decision is not immediately reversed, the @NigBarAssoc will have no choice but to challenge same in the interest of the public and for the sake of our democracy.”

In a statement released on Friday by Kola Ologbondiyan, its spokesperson, the PDP said the suspension materialised because the platform deleted President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet.

“The Peoples Democratic Party vehemently rejects the unwarranted suspension of the social media platform, Twitter, by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government, describing it as a draconian action and a slide towards a fascist regime in our country,” the statement reads.

“The party asserts that the suspension of Twitter is a vexatious, condemnable and barbaric move to muzzle Nigerians, particularly the youths, ostensibly to prevent them from holding the overtly corrupt, vindictive and divisive Muhammadu Buhari administration accountable for its atrocities, including human right violations, patronizing of terrorists and outright suppressive acts against innocent Nigerians.

“Our party is appalled that the Federal Government could exhibit such primitive intolerance and power intoxication because the social media giant demonstrated international best practices in not allowing the Muhammadu Buhari presidency to use Twitter as a platform to propagate and spread the Muhammadu Buhari administration’s hatred towards Nigerians.

“The Peoples Democratic Party insists that rather than being a platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence, as claimed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, Nigerians, particularly the youths, have been using the social media platform, largely, for activities that promote unity, as well as social, economic and commercial interaction in our country.

“Our party notes that Mr. Lai Mohammed, in his statement, failed to cite an example of where Nigerians used Twitter as a platform to promote acts that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence as he claimed.

“Of course, the failure to give any such instance, confirms that the Federal Government is only out to victimize Nigerians.”

The PDP which noted that the Buhari administration made use of Twitter to campaign during the 2015 and 2019 elections, said the federal government is “afraid of Nigerians on Twitter because of their evil machinations for which they dread the Nigerian youths”.

The opposition party added that “freedom of speech is firmly guaranteed in our constitution” and that if there is any case of any infringement, “our nation has adequate extant laws to deal with such and not this move to gag the people”.

The PDP called on the president to “end this assault against Nigerians by immediately and unconditionally rescinding its decision”, noting that it amounts to “pushing our citizens to the wall”.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami has directed the immediate prosecution of offenders of the Federal Government’s ban on Twitter operations in Nigeria.

This was announced in a statement issued by the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice on Saturday.

Spokesperson of the Ministry, Umar Jibrilu Gwandu said the AGF has directed DPPF to swing into immediate action and commence prosecution of the violators of the ban.

“Malami directed the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation (DPPF) at the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, to swing into action and commence in earnest the process of prosecution of violators of the Federal Government De-activation of operations of Twitter in Nigeria.

“Malami directed the DPPF to liase with the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, National Communication Communication (NCC) and other relevant government agencies to ensure the speedy prosecution of offenders without any further delay,” the statement read in part.

Following the announcement, telecom operators in Nigeria blocked Twitter leaving users in the country unable to access the microblogging website while some navigated the hurdle using Virtual Private Networks (VPN).

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