FG Denies Banning Nigerians From Use Of Tweeter

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Abubakar Mallami, Minister of Justice

The Federal Government has denied that it stopped Nigerians from making use of social media platform, Tweeter.

It made the denial before a Federal High Court in Lagos, adding that many Nigerians are still using it every day.

The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, said this in a counter-affidavit deposed to in response to an originating motion filed by human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, which was obtained in Lagos on Thursday.

The government had on June 4, 2021, suspended Tweeter barely two days after the social media platform deleted a tweet by the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

However, many Nigerians have bypassed the Twitter suspension by using Virtual Private Network.

Malami had in a statement threatened to prosecute Nigerians still using the platform while the National Broadcasting Commission ordered all radio and television stations to stop using Tweeter or picking content from the platform.

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 is seeking nine reliefs, including an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents from further suspending, deactivating or banning the operation and accessibility of Tweeter 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 Tweeter, 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 Tweeter was not an abuse of human rights because Nigerians were still using Tweeter despite the suspension.

Read the affidavit: “The applicant (Effiong) and the class he seeks to represent can still operate those Tweeter accounts from anywhere in the world and even from Nigeria. Nigerians are still tweeting, even at this moment as the ban on Tweeter 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, also denying knowledge of Tweeter deleting Buhari’s tweet on the Biafra civil war 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 anger at Tweeter and not the government because Tweeter would not have been suspended if it complied with Nigeria’s laws.

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