Federal Government denies that it has banned Nigerians from using Twitter. Abubakar Malami, Attorney-General of the Federation, and the Federal Government denied the allegation in their counter-affidavit to an originating motion filed by Inibehe Effiong, a human rights attorney.
On June 4 2021, the Federal government announced the indefinite suspension of Twitter’s operations in Nigeria. A Tweet from the president’s handle referencing the civil war, which many found offensive, led to the suspension. As a result of those threats, the Attorney General has threatened to prosecute Nigerians still using Twitter via VPN, and the National Broadcasting Commission has ordered all radio and television stations to stop picking up content from Twitter.
An attorney for Human Rights, Inihebe Effiong, filed a suit against Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information, and the Federal government in opposition to this move. Inihebe sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents from further suspending, deactivating, or banning Twitter in Nigeria or any other social media service, on the ground that the act violated his fundamental human rights.
Malami and Lai Mohammed have threatened criminal prosecution against Nigerians who violate Twitter’s suspension or ban, even without a written law, according to Effiong.
Mr. Ilop Lawrence, on behalf of the Federal Government and Malami, testified in an affidavit that the suspension of Twitter was not an abuse of human rights since Nigerians were still using Twitter despite it being suspended. In court, the Government of Nigeria explained that Nigerians continue to have access to platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Tiktok. Buhari’s tweet on the Biafra civil war, which offended many Nigerians, was also deleted by Twitter, according to the Federal Government.
It argues that Twitter enabled elements like Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, to utilize its platform, and had supported the #EndSARS protests of October 2020, which were then hijacked by hoodlums. Moreover, the government emphasized that Nigerians should direct their anger at Twitter instead of at the government, given that Twitter would have been permitted to operate under Nigerian laws. Once Twitter is registered with the NBC and the Corporate Affairs Commission, the suspension will be lifted, the court was told.
The affidavits deposed by the Federal government read as follows:
According to Effiong and the class he wishes to represent, the applicant (Effiong) can still manage the Twitter accounts wherever he is in the world, even in Nigeria." Despite the ban on Twitter, Nigerians are still tweeting at this moment as the ban is not meant to intimidate Nigerians or to prevent Nigerians from expressing their opinion. Respondents (Federal Government and AGF) have never intimidated the applicant (Effiong) or the class of people he seeks to represent from voicing their opinions and criticizing the government when necessary.