23rd July, 2021
The Federal Government told a Federal High Court in Lagos that it has not stopped Nigerians from using social media platform, Twitter.
The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami added that many Nigerians are still using the American microblogging and social networking service every day without hindrance.
Malami and the Federal Government said this on Thursday in a counter-affidavit they deposed to in response to an originating motion filed by human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong.
The Buhari government on 4 June 2021, suspended Twitter, following the deletion of a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari by the social media giant.
To bypass the suspension, many Nigerians have taken to using Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to access their Twitter accounts.
In his reaction to Nigerians bypassing the Twitter suspension, the AGF in a statement had threatened to prosecute Nigerians still using the platform.
In the same vein, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) ordered all radio and television stations to stop using Twitter or picking content from the platform.
Human rights lawyer, Effiong, subsequently sued the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, Malami, and the Federal Government for suspending the social media platform.
In the fundamental human rights suit marked FHC/L/CS/542/2021, Effiong seeks nine reliefs, including an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents from further suspending, deactivating or banning the operation and accessibility of Twitter or any other social media service in Nigeria because the act was in violation of his rights.
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.
In an affidavit deposed to by Mr Ilop Lawrence on behalf of the Federal Government and the AGF, it was stated that the suspension of Twitter was not an abuse of human rights because Nigerians were still using Twitter despite the suspension.
“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.”
The government told the court that Nigerians are still free to use other platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Tiktok and others while denying knowledge of Twitter deleting Buhari’s tweet on the Biafra civil which offended many Nigerians.
It said Twitter had made its platform accessible to elements like Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra; and had supported the #EndSARS protests of October 2020 which was later hijacked by hoodlums.
The government further stated that Nigerians should direct their irritation at Twitter and not the government because Twitter would not have been suspended if it complied with Nigeria’s laws.
It further told the court that the Twitter suspension would be lifted once the platform registers with the NBC and the Corporate Affairs Commission.