The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and human rights group, Concerned Nigerians have condemned the Nigerian government for suspending the operations of the microblogging platform, Twitter, in Nigeria.
According to the NBA, there is no constitutional authority to support the Federal Government’s indefinite suspension of Twitter.
The indefinite suspension of the site came after it deleted a comment by President Muhammadu Buhari in which he made reference to the Nigerian Civil War of 1967.
In a statement by the President of the Association, Olumide Akpata, the NBA argued that Nigeria is operating a constitutional democracy and everything must be done according to law.
It further argued that government must be conducted within the framework of recognised rules and principles which restrict discretionary power.
NBA further noted that the indefinite suspension of the site has implications on the right of Nigerians to freely express their constitutionally guaranteed opinions through the medium.
It also stated that the Federal Government’s directive is an attempt to regulate social media, restrict freedom of speech and shrink the civic space.
The statement read, ”The Nigerian Bar Association has noted with great concern the extraordinary decision of the Federal Government to suspend the operations of Twitter in Nigeria and, by necessary implication, the right of Nigerians to freely express their constitutionally guaranteed opinions through that medium.
”The FGN also directed the @NgComCommission 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 shrinking 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 Nigeria 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. Beyond the dent in 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 Nigeria Bar Association will have no choice but to challenge same in the interest of the public and for the sake of our democracy.”
Similarly in a statement signed by its convener, Comrade Deji Adeyanju on Friday, Concerned Nigerians described the suspension as a ploy to stifle freedom of speech of Nigerians as entrenched in the Constitution.
The group urged Buhari to lift the ban.
“We condemn in strong terms, the suspension of Twitter operations by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“Twitter and Internet shutdowns in general are increasingly becoming a tool for governments all over the world to silence media reporting and restricting the fundamental right of citizens to have free access to information.
“It is worthy of note that Information is essential for the functioning of modern societies and access to information denotes the right of citizens to obtain information regarding how they are governed.
“Freedom of Information Act allows openness and transparency in public governance, therefore, we urge President Buhari’s Federal Government of Nigeria to lift the ban on Twitter,” the statement said.