The federal government has denied claims that it has stopped Nigerians from using microblogging site, Twitter.
According to The PUNCH, Abubakar Malami, Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), made the denial in a counter-affidavit it deposed to in response to an originating motion filed by human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong.
On June 4, 2021, the federal government announced the indefinite suspension of operations of Twitter in Nigeria.
The government suspended the operations of the microblogging platform days after it deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari, in which he made reference to the civil war treatment for those disturbing the peace of the country in the South-east.
Malami later released a statement threatening to prosecute Nigerians using the Virtual Private Network (VPN), to access Twitter, while the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) ordered all radio and television stations to stop using the platform.
Opposed to the move by the federal government, Effiong, dragged the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed and the federal government before a Federal High Court.
In a fundamental human rights suit marked FHC/L/CS/542/2021, Effiong asked the court to among other things, grant 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.
the lawyer also 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 Ilop Lawrence on behalf of the federal government and Malami, 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 government told the court that Nigerians are still free to use platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Tiktok and others.
The government further denied 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, IPOB leader; 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 Twitter and not the government because it would not have been suspended if it complied with Nigeria’s laws.
It told the court that the Twitter suspension will be lifted once the platform registers with the NBC and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
The affidavits deposed by the federal government reads in part:
“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.”