By John Ikani
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), an umbrella body of lawyers in the West African country, has instituted legal proceedings against President Muhammadu Buhari over the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria.
Sued along with President Buhari and the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/613/202, are the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and the Minister of Communications and Culture, Lai Mohammed.
NBA in the suit filed at the Lagos division of the Federal High Court said “The actions and directives of the respondents gravely infringed the fundamental rights of the applicant (NBA),” the association argued in the suit filed at the Federal High Court in Lagos.
“No law criminalises the use of Twitter in Nigeria,” the association said.
It added that Mr Buhari and the other respondents “unilaterally, without due process and contrary to the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the applicant, suspended the operations of the microblogging and social media website” in Nigeria.
The association urged the court to rule that the ban on Twitter amounted to “a violent breach of the applicant’s right to freedom of expression and the press, guaranteed under sections 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended 2011), articles 9 of the African Chater on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, 1983 as well as Articles 19 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.”
It also urged the court to declare that the threat by the government to prosecute and jail any Nigerian found using the microblogging site within Nigeria’s cyberspace “amounted to a breach of the applicant’s right to a fair hearing and right not to be tried and convicted for an offence not prescribed in written law.”
It also prayed for an order “setting aside the purported directives/fiat/order” issued by the respondents banning the use of microblogging and social media websites in Nigeria’s cyberspace.
What you should know
Twitter was banned by the Nigerian government on June 4, two days after a controversial tweet by President Buhari was taken down from the platform.
The government cited “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence”, as reason for its action.
The ban took effect almost immediately, with the government directing network providers to block access to Twitter.
But many Nigerians have continued to use the microblogging site using Virtual Private Network (VPN) applications to bypass the ban.
The suit by the NBA is among the flurry of suits that have been filed to challenge the Twitter ban.
A lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, is among Nigerians that have sued the government over the ban.
Ruling on an application filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and other Nigerians, the ECOWAS Court of Justice, in June, issued an interim order restraining the Nigerian government from harassing, arresting, or prosecuting any Nigerian for using Twitter.