NIGERIANS HAVE CONTINUE TO TWEET, despite government ban on Twitter operation in the country, and the threat of prosecution of anyone violating the ban. There has been outrage over the ban, and are using Virtual Private Networks, VPN, to bypass the ban. Government’s telecommunications agency has heeded the directive to blocked the microblogging site, in line with the ban order.
Some Nigerian agencies, and some private businesses have heeded the ban order and deactivated their Twitter handle, because of the fear of being prosecuted as threatened by government. For the citizens, they have continued to tweet, unhindered.
The ban of Twitter operations in the country, last Friday, with excuses by government, that the microblogging site is being used to undermine “national security” and “corporate existence”, and alleging also that Twitter is being used to spread fake news; drew condemnation from Nigerians and the international communities. They described government action as infringing on the rights of the citizens to free speech.
LEGAL PRACTITIONERS in the country, say they are not aware of any law that makes tweeting illegal in the country, for which anybody could be prosecuted, for using Twitter, despite the ban. There are fears, however, of arbitrary arrest by over-zealous and overbearing powers of government security agencies, who indiscriminately arrest citizens with “order from above”; meaning directives from government.
Abubakar Malami, Nigeria’s chief law officer, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, is pressing for the prosecution of anyone who breaches the Twitter ban. He is reported to have said that people will know what offence they have committed when they are arraigned in court on Twitter ban in the country.
Government has not confirmed any arrest, despite the fact that tweeting has been ongoing. There are fears that government may have been carrying out underground arrest of those defying the ban; and people could be detained without anyone knowing.
Nigerian courts are, presently, on locked down, due to the ongoing judicial workers strikes; which could embolden government to detain people without trial. The present lull in tweeting in the country, being the vibrant platform of Breaking News, and rallying public support against government’s secret actions, could worsened matters.
Nigerian Bar Association, the legal practitioners professional body, in the country, is itching to test government ban of Twitter’s operations in court, as well as test in court, the legal competence of Abubakar Malami, government’s chief law officer, who has vowed to prosecute those who continue to use Twitter handle; despite the ban.