By Neta Nwosu and Constaincia Uruakpa
Catholic lawyers, as well as the Nigerian Bar Association have added their voice to that of other Nigerians, as they condemn the Federal Government’s ban on Twitter, which they claim lacked legal basis. The lawyers also condemned the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami’s order for immediate prosecution of those circumventing the ban, adding that it is a breach of citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and association. According to Philip Ike Okocha Esq, Nigeria’s Twitter ban is hasty, poorly reasoned, despicable and a colossal error. “Government could have simply ignored Twitter. By the ban, government acted as a judge in her own case, and thereby infringing on the constitutional rights of Nigerians to freedom of expression and association.
Government also acted in breach of Twitter’s right to fair hearing. Government’s action has caused avoidable business and economic losses to Nigeria and Nigerians”, he said. Okocha also noted that the Attorney General’s order for immediate prosecution of those circumventing the ban is tantamount to high-handedness, and a further breach of citizens rights to freedom of expression and association. “By such prosecution, government will be seen to be gagging Nigerians”, he said. Expressing disappointment at what he termed a display of impunity on the part of the Nigerian Government, Chinedu Akpa Esq. of MCIArb, UK noted that the government intends to consign the nation, and people to the pantheon of pariah nations. He said: “Impunity Chronicles! Once again, the Nigerian government has displayed its predilection for impunity in violating the constitution ally guaranteed rights of Nigerians to freedom of expression, using any medium of their choice, and consigning the nation to the pantheon of pariah nations. “As if that is not bad enough, the AG who should be the Chief Advocate of the people, but who sadly is wallowing in the throes of partisanship, now seeks to criminalise millions of Nigerians, over an unwritten and nonexistent offence, just to massage the bruised ego of his principal.
It is really sad, but hopefully, the law will be invoked by Nigerians, to redress these sad anomalies and return the country to the path of decency and true democratic ideals.” On June 5, 2021, the Nigerian government officially put an indefinite ban on Twitter, restricting it from operating in Nigeria, after the social media platform deleted tweets made by President Muhammadu Buhari, warning the South-eastern people of Nigeria, predominantly occupied by the Igbo people of a potential repeat of the 1967 Biafran Civil War. The government claimed that the deletion of the President’s tweets factored into their decision, but it was ultimately based on “a litany of problems with the social media platform in Nigeria, where misinformation and fake news spread through it have had real world violent consequences.” The ban was condemned by Amnesty International, as well as the British and Canadian Missions and the Swedish Embassy in Nigeria. Two domestic organizations, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), and the Nigerian Bar Association have indicated intent to challenge the ban in court. Twitter itself called the ban “deeply concerning.”