Nigeria: Reverse Twitter Suspension or Face Legal Action, NBA Threatens Nigerian Govt

Person tweeting.

The body of Nigerian lawyer says the ban on Twitter lacks legal basis, describes it as a move to deprive Nigerians their right to freely express their constitutionally guaranteed opinions through that medium.

The umbrella body of Nigerian lawyers, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), has threatened to sue the Nigerian government if it fails to reverse its decision to suspend Twitter operations indefinitely in the country.

Many Nigerians have expressed outrage at the ban announced by the information minister, Lai Mohammed, on Friday.

The government had announced the suspension barely 48 hours after the microblogging site deleted a controversial post by President Muhammadu Buhari referencing the country's civil war, and threatening to treat those attacking government buildings "with the language they understand."

Reacting to the government's decision in a thread of tweets posted via his twitter handle, the NBA President, Olumide Akpata, expressed the association's "great concern" over the implications of the development.

The implications, according to him, extend to "the right of Nigerians to freely express their constitutionally guaranteed opinions through that medium."

He said there is no Nigerian law that can be cited in support of the ban, reminding the government that the country practises "constitutional democracy" where everything must be done according to recognised rules.

"The Nigerian Bar Association finds no constitutional or legal authority to support the peremptory action of the Federal Government to suspend the operations of Twitter in Nigeria and deprive Nigerians of their right to freely express their constitutionally guaranteed opinions. Beyond the dent on our constitutional democracy, at a time when the Nigerian economy is unarguably struggling, the impact of arbitrary decisions such as this on investor confidence is better imagined.

"Consequently, if this decision is not immediately reversed, the Nigerian Bar Association will have no choice but to challenge same in the interest of the public and our democracy," the NBA president's tweet read in part.

Licensing of social media operations

He added that the Nigerian government's directive to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT (Over The Top) and social media operations in Nigeria, "is, at best, yet another disguised attempt to regulate social media, restrict freedom of speech and shrink civic space."

"The FGN also directed the @NigComCommission to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria, which is, at best, yet another disguised attempt to regulate social media, restrict freedom of speech and shrink civic space.

"Whether one likes it or not, we are operating a constitutional democracy, the primary consequence of which is that everything must be done according to law; government must be conducted within the framework of recognised rules and principles which restrict discretionary power," the statement added.

Background

Earlier on Friday, the Nigerian government had announced its indefinite suspension of the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in the country.

PREMIUM TIMES reports that this comes after Twitter deleted a controversial post by President Muhammadu Buhari referencing the country's civil war, and threatening to treat those attacking government buildings "with the language they understand".

The post was similarly deleted by Facebook.

"Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand," Mr Buhari had posted on Tuesday.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, announced the suspension of Twitter, citing the alleged use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria's corporate existence.

According to the statement signed by Special Assistant to the President, Segun Adeyemi, the minister said the Federal Government has also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately commence the process of licensing all social media operations in Nigeria.

Mr Mohammed had earlier claimed the social media site's response to Nigeria was "suspect".

The minister has, for long, been championing the call for regulation of social media in the country, claiming the platforms are used to spew hate.

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