Jack Dorsey
Jack Dorsey

... Sweden, Amnesty, others ask Buhari to respect free speech

….NBA, SERAP threaten court action

By OBINNA EZUGWU

The decision of President Muhammadu Buhari government to ban social media platform, Twitter in Nigeria, has triggered outrage among  Nigerians, even as local and international bodies, including the Swedish government, Amnesty International, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), among others, have called for immediate reversal of the ban, while Socioeconomic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has vowed to drag the government to court.

In a statement via its twitter handle, the Swedish embassy in Nigeria, called on the Buhari government to respect the right of Nigerians to freedom of speech, as according to it, free speech remained an important part of democracy.

The embassy in a statement via its handle, @SwedeninNigeria, noted that, “Nigerians have a constitutional right to exercise their freedom of expression and a right to access of information. This must be respected. Safeguarding free, independent media and civic spaces for democratic voices is an important part of Sweden’s drive for democracy.”

Similarly, global human rights body, Amnesty International, called on the government to reverse the ban, describing it as an attempt to stifle free speech, which according to it cannot be allowed in a democracy.

In a statement titled, “Amnesty International condemns the Nigerian government’s suspension of Twitter, Amnesty noted the microblogging site, is a social media widely used by Nigerians to exercise their human rights, including their rights to freedom of expression and access to information.

“We call on the Nigerian authorities to immediately reverse the unlawful suspension and other plans to gag the media, repress the civic space, and undermine Nigerians’ human rights,” Amnesty said.

“This action is clearly inconsistent and incompatible with Nigeria’s international obligations including under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

Still, the Nigerian Bar Association, in a statement by its president, Olumide Akpata, @OlumideAkpata, while condemning the ban as an infringement of free speech, warned that the impact of such arbitrary decisions on investor confidence is better imagined.

Akpata in the statement asked that the ban be reversed, failure of which the NBA would take legal action against the government.

“@NigBarAssoc has noted with great concern the extraordinary decision of the Federal Govt 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 statement issued by Akpata said.

“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 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 @NigBarAssoc 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 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 @NigBarAssoc will have no choice but to challenge same in the interest of the public and for the sake of our democracy.

On its part, SERAP, @SERAPNigeria, said it is commencing immediate legal action against the government over the decision, while maintaining that freedom of speech is a fundamental human right.

“Nigerians have a right to freedom of expression and access to information including online, and we plan to fight to keep it that way,” the body said. “@NigeriaGov, we’ll see you in court.”

Nigeria’s Federal Government had suspended the operations of Twitter in Nigeria indefinitely.

This was disclosed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, via a statement issued by the Ministry’s spokesperson, Segun Adeyemi on Friday.

The Minister cited the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.

“The Federal Government has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria,” the statement read.

“The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced the suspension in a statement issued in Abuja on Friday, citing the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.

“The Minister said the Federal Government has also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria.”