“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to have opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference” – Section 39 (1) CFRN
The Nigerian federal government has continued to face strong criticism for its decision to suspend the operation of the US microblogging social network Twitter in Nigeria, as some leading Nigerian advocates (SAN) told on Sunday that the action contravened Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
They also rejected the directive of the Federal Prosecutor General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, to the Federal Director of the Public Ministry, to arrest and prosecute any Twitter user in defiance of the suspension order, as offensive to the Section. 36 (12) of the amended Constitution.
Article 39 (1) stipulates: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to have opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”
Senior attorneys argued that the suspension constituted an obstacle to the citizens’ right to receive information.
In addition, they argued that the threat of prosecution by the AGF has no basis in the law since it clearly violates Section 36 (12), which establishes: “Subject to the contrary provisions of this Constitution, a person will not be convicted for a crime unless the crime is defined and the penalty is therefore prescribed in a written law, and in this subsection, a written law refers to a law of the National Assembly or a law of a state, whatever subsidiary legislation or instrument in accordance with the provisions of the law. ”
Malami, in a statement from his media assistant, Dr. Umar Gwandu, had directed the Director of the Federation Public Ministry to work with the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy to ensure the speedy prosecution of alleged offenders.
But Benue State Governor Dr. Samuel Ortom also described Twitter’s suspension as a reckless departure from the core issues of insecurity and injustice plaguing the nation.
Joining the fray, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House of Representatives threatened to sue the federal government for suspending Twitter operations.
The attorneys, in separate interviews with, described the government’s action as illegal, void, and unenforceable.
They said the suspension in the first place was illegal because it violated the fundamental human rights of citizens.
The lawyers, citing parts of the law, claimed that the government cannot prosecute anyone under a law that does not exist.
Human rights activists and Nigeria’s chief advocate (SAN) Chief Mike Ozekhome, citing decisions of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, said: “No citizen of Nigeria can be tried or punished for an alleged crime not created by law. “.
Ozekhome, who criticized Malami’s directive, warned that the government should “be ready to build thousands of prisons in every nook and cranny of Nigeria to accommodate the deluge of” misguided “Nigerians.
According to him, there must be a legal provision establishing a crime before anyone can be convicted of such a crime.
He said: “The punishment must also be specifically named in the legislation. The Supreme Court emphatically affirmed that it is rudimentary and elementary for any person or persons who have something to do with the administration of justice in this country to know that no citizen can be subjected to any criminal trial for an act that is not classified as a crime. defined or declared (codified) in any law and the prescribed punishment.
“All the judicial authorities mentioned are very clear that neither Malami nor the DPP, nor this government, can prosecute any Twitter user. Using Twitter is not a known crime or a written crime. ”
While noting that the National Assembly has not enacted any laws prohibiting the use of social media, including Twitter, Ozekhome said that mere verbal pronouncement, statements, directives, or threats from Malami could not amount to a law validly passed by the Assembly. National.
Chief Godwin Obla (SAN) described the suspension of Twitter as foolish and not legally justifiable because there is no order outlawing Twitter in Nigeria.
Obla, who noted that what the federal government did in the first place was prevent telecommunications companies from allowing Twitter to use their platform to operate in Nigeria, said that no Nigerian could be punished for simply using Twitter, which he claims is a medium. online. to disseminate information.
He said: “There is nowhere and I have not seen the Attorney General’s order banning Twitter because there must be an order. Could the federal government alone have violated the right of citizens to disseminate, maintain and manage information? The answer is no.
“So if a Nigerian citizen is using another IT platform, let’s say the US platform, he can spread information; it is a piece of information online, it is not physical. If my Twitter account is a US Twitter account, I can Tweet from Nigeria.
“The prohibition does not make sense. It is not legally justifiable. I don’t see how it can be enforced, and I don’t see how no citizen can be found guilty of such a crime. ”
Similarly, Professor Konyinsola Ajayi (SAN), wondered when a pronouncement by a minister becomes a law on which citizens can be prosecuted.
He said that for someone to be arrested and prosecuted in a court of law, there must be a crime, adding that in this case, there is no known law by which a person has disobeyed.
“I do not know of any law that says that if there is a pronouncement by a minister, it becomes a crime,” he said, explaining: “To arrest someone there must be a crime, a written crime. There must be a law; it must refer to a law that says that anyone who disobeys an order or a statement from the minister is a crime, but there is nothing like that, there is definitely no law like that. ”
Another senior lawyer, Chief Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), also claimed that there is no known law on which Nigerians can be prosecuted for using Twitter, adding that the power to make criminal laws rests with the National Assembly and not the president.
He said: “I am not aware of any laws that have been enacted by the National Assembly. The president cannot enact criminal laws, only the National Assembly can.
“Criminal laws are not enacted in secret; it has to be published before it can be effective. ”
In his contribution, a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Chief Joseph Daudu (SAN), said that President Muhammadu Buhari lacked the power to use state institutions to fight personal battles.
Daudu also clarified that Twitter’s decision to suspend Buhari’s personal account “is not a matter between Nigeria and the social networking service.”
He made this clarification in his response to questions about the constitutionality of the federal government’s decision to suspend Twitter’s operation in Nigeria.
Daudu said that all Nigerians who operate a Twitter account “do so on their own behalf, even if the underlying goal is to promote the goals and aspirations of their constituency, business team or even office.”
Therefore, he said that Buhari, although he has a very eminent personality, “is an individual client of Twitter with no greater rights than the other millions of people who have also subscribed to Twitter and have accepted its rules and conditions of membership.”
“Twitter perceived that Buhari violated his rules and by applying one of the sanctions imposed on him he deleted the offending tweet. Whether the account was blocked or suspended is really not the problem at this point, ”he added.
Therefore, he said that the president lacked the power to use the apparatus and state institutions “to hit or take revenge on Twitter, which is what he has done in retaliation by banning them from entering Nigeria using state institutions like NBC and NCC to deprive all Nigerians of their access to Twitter. ”
Mr. Dayo Akinlaja (SAN) also stated that before someone can be punished for a crime in Nigeria, the crime must be defined and its punishment must be established in written law.
“This is what Section 36 (12) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria stipulates,” he said.
He added that, unless there is a law prohibiting the use of the Twitter account, “it is unconstitutional to arrest, much less prosecute, anyone for using Twitter services in Nigeria.”
House Speaker Hon. Benjamin Kalu also told that Parliament is currently investigating the recent suspension of Twitter by the federal government, with a view to obtaining critical analysis before taking a position on the trending issue. .
Kalu said: “The House is busy investigating the trending topic of Twitter as expected for any federal parliament. The time has come for an in-depth critical analysis of the whole picture, but the time for press releases on the subject has not yet come. But rest assured, it won’t be long before we make our position known in accordance with our laws and democratic principles. ”
Human rights lawyer and former Labor Party National Secretary Dr. Kayode Ajulo condemned the attempt to prosecute violators of the Twitter suspension in Nigeria.
Ajulo objected to Malami’s position, saying: “Notwithstanding the justification for the Nigerian blog site ban, it is imperative to note that the provisions of Section 36 (12) of the 1999 Constitution are clear in the sense that no one should be prosecuted for a crime not known by law.
“I have carefully established the content of our various criminal laws and nowhere is a citizen of the country prohibited from receiving or disseminating information, which is a right guaranteed by Article 39 of the Constitution.”
Ortom described the suspension of Twitter operations in the country as a reckless departure from the core issues of insecurity and injustice that plague the nation.
The governor said that the suspension of Twitter did not offer a solution to any of the problems facing the country, as the move was only able to increase tensions and fuel suspicions among Nigerians about the real motives of the federal government.
Ortom, in a statement by his press secretary, Mr. Terver Akase, said that suspending Twitter amounted to suppressing freedom of expression, gagging social media and undermining the fundamental human rights of Nigerians, a fact that contravenes Chapter Four. of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
Ortom emphasized the need for the federal government to listen to the opinions and wishes of the people in order to address the challenges facing the nation.
Meanwhile, the PPD caucus in the House of Representatives has threatened to sue the federal government in court for suspending Twitter operations in the country.
He described the decision as an act of desperation by a government that failed to comply and failed to intimidate and cow its citizens into consolidating its grip on power by brute force.
Caucus leader Hon. Kingsley Chinda, in a statement yesterday, said that Twitter had become an integral component of citizens’ ability to keep government in check and provide real-time feedback on the impact of government activities. government in citizenship.
The PPD has accused the National Caucus of the Congress of All Progressives (APC) of being behind the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria.
The PDP said the available facts show how APC leaders at one of their party’s national caucus meetings recommended the regulation of social media in Nigeria and how they have been conspiring to destroy Internet-based interaction platforms such as Twitter.
The PDP, in a statement by the Secretary of National Advertising, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said that the APC Caucus had been pushing bills in the National Assembly, particularly in November 2020, seeking to enforce a draconian regulation of social media. to muzzle Nigerians from exposing their atrocities, including human rights abuses, treasury looting, nepotism and sectional marginalization by the APC administration.
The PDP said: “Nigerians can also remember how the APC administration, in carrying out their party’s agenda, has been using the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to smother the media space with huge fines. and threats of suspension of operating licenses. of stations “.
Buhari: We are taking the lead in cyber police
1. It is my great pleasure to address you today on this occasion of the 2019 Annual Investment Meeting here in Dubai.
2. I wish to thank his Royal Highness, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, for inviting me to speak at this event.
3. This is the ninth edition of such a meeting. At this point, I want to congratulate His Highness, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum for his vision of supporting such a platform where world leaders from both the public and private sectors exchange ideas on how to make this world A better place.
4. This morning, my brief remarks will be about digital globalization, which we all agree is transforming the world as we know it. Transformative ideas and innovations are implemented almost every day. This trend is here to stay.
5. Today we have an intangible but real cyber world. This borderless world is powerful and impacts the lives of billions of people, no matter how remote their physical locations.
6. People work on it. People socialize on it. And people invest in that. This presents enormous opportunities. But it also remains a constant threat if it is not regulated.
7. On the one hand, it has made the human race more productive and more efficient. Today, we have digital banking, virtual currencies, and many social platforms that connect people and cultures.
8. On the other hand, we have seen platforms hijacked and manipulated as evidenced by the constant increase in fake news and cybercrime.
9. More recently, we are also witnessing the use of cyberspace to manipulate elections, subvert the democratic rights of citizens and spread violence.
10. In fact, the digital world has become the new frontier of good and evil. Therefore, the challenge for world leaders must be to ensure that this space is inclusive, accessible and safe.
11. In Nigeria, our mobile phone penetration exceeds eighty percent. This means that the majority of the one hundred and ninety million citizens of Nigeria are fully connected to this new digital world; especially our youth.
12. Sixty-five percent or one hundred and seventeen million Nigerians are under 25 years of age. These brilliant minds are the drivers of this emerging digital sector.
13. At present, Nigeria has about 90 technology centers and new ones are emerging every day and all of them are developing solutions to Nigerian and indeed global problems.
14. These young entrepreneurs have already attracted investments in excess of one hundred million dollars. A considerable amount from abroad, including Silicon Valley.
15. As many of you from this region know, Nigerian startups always have a very impressive start at the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX). Many have won awards.
16. As leaders, therefore, it is our responsibility to create an enabling environment for these minds to flourish and reach their full potential.
17. When we arrived in 2015, we immediately agreed that any future economic growth must be inclusive.
18. Given that the Nigerian youth population is completely digitized, it is clear that the idea of having an inclusive economy cannot be achieved without digital inclusion.
19. Therefore, we take advantage of and support digital platforms in our many socio-economic programs: from the training of extension workers in the sectors of agriculture, health and education; to enable microcredits to increase financial inclusion.
20. However, while this digital globalization has occurred rapidly in the private sector, many governments and regulators have not kept pace.
21. New waves of cybercrime and terrorism continue to threaten the positive developments that are being made.
22. With regard to cyber security, Nigeria has taken the lead in cyber police in West Africa. On this, we are working with our regional and global partners.
23. Additionally, our public sector reform programs focus on digitizing key operations. From procurement to payroll to revenue collection, we use digital platforms to reinforce our goals of improving efficiency, accountability and transparency in governance.
24. We are also working to create the largest digital database in Africa. Our digital identity system has already captured more than thirty million Nigerians and legal residents.
25. As noted above, the digital world has no borders. In many cases, the criminals of this world have no face or physical address. That is why we must all unite to protect the good and eliminate the bad.
26. Emerging threats are difficult to prevent or manage unilaterally. It has to be a collective effort, led by leaders from the public and private sectors, many of whom are here today.
27. A certain level of regulation is needed to preserve the integrity of the digital economy.
28. Therefore, I would like to ask all of us here, in the coming days, to join our heads and come up with proposals on how to create a digital world that is accessible, inclusive and safe.
29. Thank you for your attention and I wish you every success in your deliberations.