Twitter ban: Nigerians have rights to challenge the unconstitutional decision – cyber security expert

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Twitter ban: Nigerians have rights to challenge the unconstitutional decision – cyber security expert
Twitter ban: Nigerians have rights to challenge the unconstitutional decision – cyber security expert

Africa-PressNigeria. Munirudeen Adeyanju is a Nigerian-American lawyer and cyber security consultant. In this interview with DAILY POST’s Francis Ezediuno, he bares his mind on the recent Twitter suspension by the Federal Government, its implications, why the government is wrong in its decision and the rights of Nigerians to challenge the Twitter ban.

Excerpts;

Twitter suspension in Nigeria. What is happening l?

Regarding the recent Twitter ban by the Federal Government, there are two trajectories you must look at. Now, from the national security perspective as well as the rights of the citizens perspective. One iron sharpens the other.

However, the constitution of the land reigns supreme and even national security laws would be somewhat subject to the rights of the citizens. The right to freedom of expression by any average citizen in whatever platform or social avenue is sacrosanct and non-negotiable. The ban by the Federal Government of Twitter is absolutely at variance with the constitution of Nigeria.

This is not what the June 12, 1993 anti-democracy fight was all about. This is not what it was all about.

As a matter of fact, let’s go back to what the statement of the president was. The statement copiously alludes to the fact of the tragic horrors of a civil war. It could be replicated. It was a war chant so to speak. That was not the best choice of words.

In public policy, what is expected is that the policy directive defines the problem at hand. Then you address it. The social media handlers of Mr. President did not address the issues at hand. It was a badly crafted narrative by the Federal Government and Twitter whatever their consideration but factually based on their community guidelines, the language of that tweet was against their community guidelines and it was open to flagging.

President Donald Trump also did the same thing and he was checked. Section 26 of the Cyber Crime Act of Nigeria, that was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari copiously states and prohibits the use of racial or xenophobic statements.

The President’s tweet was xenophobic. It consists of racial undertones. Everybody knows that the Igbos in the South East suffered imaginable horrors during the civil war. So why should he refer to such a tragic path of history and use it against the same set of people that are clamouring against Insecurity in the land. The same plan that the president campaigned with in 2015 and 2019. We have seen now after six years that this government has been grossly incompetent.

Pro-ban advocates have been saying that Twitter operates with terms and conditions while Nigeria operates with rules and laws. How do you marry that?

Twitter is a company registered under the laws of a land. Because of the unique space it operates in, Twitter traverses the information and cyber space. The flow of information and data is universal and global. Under the terms and conditions of Twitter, they operate globally. Anyone that uses Twitter through their official or personal handle, including Mr. President has accepted to subordinate himself to the terms and conditions of that company.

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If the terms and conditions of Twitter was at variance with the rules and laws of Nigeria, Nigerians as a whole including the telecommunications companies through which Nigerians participate on the Twitter platform to trade and do business would have rejected it. Nigeria would not be party to it. Nigeria has been party to several telecommunications agreements through the International Communication Union. By doing so, Nigerians laws and regulations have been subordinated to global agreements. If Nigeria’s interests were not addressed by those agreements, Nigeria should not be a party to it.

Let us come back home, both the Minister of Information and Culture and his colleagues in the Communication and Digital Economy Ministry have transgressed against Nigerian laws. Isa Pantami, the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy is known to have had harboured terrorists views and he is still a minister till today.

Between ban and regulations, which line should the government toe and what is your view on such a decision?

Social media regulation is a very strong issue because it runs through three very thin lines. It bothers on privacy, freedom of speech and expression and the right to association. It is a grey area that one has to be very careful about. In regulating social media, as long as those regulations do not impact on these universally accepted fundamental rights afforded to a human being, social media regulation is not the way to go.

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In the course of regulation, there is serious danger that those rights will be taken away and we cannot afford that under a democratic system of government.

What of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice’s threat that law enforcement agents should arrest people still using Twitter despite the suspension?

The government directive does not have the force of law. It is not a law or regulation. It can still be challenged. What I expect is for people to challenge it. The first thing anybody arrested should do is to challenge the directive.

People should speak up. We are under a democracy. We are not somebody’s personal fiefdom. Nigeria is bigger than any individual. Nigeria is bigger than Mr. President. We elected Mr. President. He is subject to us, we are not subject to him. The rule of law must prevail.

What is the solution to this whole impasse?

The president should reverse the Twitter ban, that is the way forward and the only solution.

What about the statement from the Presidency, citing reasons for the Federal Government’s decision to suspend the operation of the platform in Nigeria?

With due respect to Malam Garba Shehu who I know is a professional, I am very sorry that his argument holds no water. You cannot poke a lion in the eye and then turn around to tell it sorry, let us now dialogue. Neither can you poke your brother in the eye and then turn around to say you are sorry, we should dialogue.

In the same vein, you cannot sleep with your friend’s wife and then turn around to say you are sorry and opt for dialogue. The right of an individual to express himself is guaranteed under the constitution of Nigeria. It is an inalienable right. That is why in other civilised places of the world, where we have several High Commissions and Embassies, because we want to see trade and investment flowing into Nigeria, we conform with their laws and they allow us to express ourselves. When citizens are arrested, they read to them their rights.

Professionally, a lot of people have forgotten what they are all about. They should be able to look their Principal in the eye and declare they cannot do such and if the Principal insists, they should resign. It is not the end of the world.

The essence of nation building entails that sometimes, the individual has to swallow their pride.

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