We Haven’t Prohibited Nigerians From Using Twitter, FG Tells Court
Iexclusive News Nigeria reports that the Federal Government has disputed reports that it has banned Nigerians from accessing Twitter.
In a counter-affidavit submitted in response to an originating petition filed by Inibehe Effiong, a human rights lawyer, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and the Federal Government disputed the claims, according to Punch.
On June 4, 2021, the Nigerian government declared that Twitter’s activities would be suspended indefinitely. The government shut down the site days after President Buhari’s handle erased a Tweet that many deemed insulting, in which he made a reference to the civil conflict.The Attorney General issued a statement threatening to punish Nigerians who continue to use the network through a VPN, while the National Broadcasting Commission ordered all radio and television stations to stop utilizing Twitter or taking up content from it.
Human Rights lawyer Inihebe Effiong, who opposed to the decision by the Federal government, took the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, and the Federal government to court. Inihebe requested an order of perpetual injunction barring the respondents from further suspending, deactivating, or restricting the operation and using Twitter or any other social media service in Nigeria, among other things, in a fundamental human rights litigation dated FHC/L/CS/542/2021.
Effiong asked the court to declare as illegal the ‘threat of criminal prosecution by Malami and Lai Mohammed against Nigerians who violate the suspension or ban of Twitter, despite the absence of any written law.’
The suspension of Twitter was not an abuse of human rights, according to an affidavit testified to by Mr. Ilop Lawrence on behalf of the Federal Government and Malami, because Nigerians continued to use Twitter despite the suspension. Nigerians are still allowed to use services such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Tiktok, and others, the government told the court. The Federal Government also denied knowing that Buhari’s tweet on the Biafra civil war, which outraged many Nigerians, was deleted by Twitter.
It said that Twitter had made its platform available to people like Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, as well as supporting the #EndSARS protests in October 2020, which were later hijacked by hoodlums. Nigerians should direct their rage at Twitter, not the government, according to the administration, because Twitter would not have been suspended if it followed Nigerian regulations. The court was told that once Twitter registered with the NBC and the Corporate Affairs Commission, the suspension would be lifted.
Part of the affidavits filed by the federal government reads:
“The applicant (Effiong) and the class he seeks to represent can still operate those Twitter accounts from anywhere in the world and even from Nigeria. Nigerians are still tweeting, even at this moment as the ban on Twitter is not aimed at intimidating Nigerians or an infringement on the rights of Nigerians to express their opinion.
The respondents (Federal Government and AGF) have never stopped the applicant (Effiong) and the class of persons he seeks to represent from voicing their opinions to access government information and offer criticism where necessary.”