We have watched keenly the crisis generated so far by the indefinite suspension of Twitter in Nigeria by the Federal government, the order for arrest and prosecution of users of the social media platform by the Attorney General of Federation and Minister ofJustice; more crisis that are likely to follow the action of the suspension, order for arrest and prosecution of Twitter users and directive for registration by owners of Social Media in Nigeria. We hereby call for immediate withdrawal of the suspension and the resignation of those responsible for the misdirection.
This scenerio has brought the country into ridicule and poses serious danger ahead for the country and citizenry as result of wilful ill advice and pronouncements of the trio of Ministers for information and Culture and that of Ministry of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami and Lai Mohammed respectively, as well as Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media, Garba Shehu with the likely consequences of anarchy and doom
Suspension of Twitter by the Federal government, the order of arrest of users of Twitter and mandatory registration order for Twitter and other social media platforms constitute gross abuse of Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, African Charter on Human and People’s rights, United Nations Charter on Human rights as well as International Convention on Civil and political rights with respect to freedom of expression.
The action and the directives also violates eminently some aspects of fundamental objective and directive principles of state policy as provided for in Chapter two of 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as ammended and if not properly addressed with urgency it deserves, will dispose the President and government of the federation into full scale dictatorship and plunge the country into anarchy and doom simply because of ill- conceived ideas , advice and actions of the three principal of officers
PROVISIONS OF THE CONSTITUTION AND INTERNATIONAL INSTRUMENTS AND
THEIR VIOLATION AND ABUSE BY THE SUSPENSION AND DIRECTIVES
Precisely,while Section 13 of chapter 2 of CFRN states clearly that it shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of governments, and of all authorities and persons, excercising legislative, executive and judicial powers to conform to, observe and APPLY the provision of this chapter of this Constitution, section 14 states that ” Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a state based on the principles of democracy and social justice” Section 17 of the same chapter provides that” the state social order is founded on ideals of freedom, equality and justice.
Section 39 (1) of chapter 4 of the same Nigeria Constitution provides that ” Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinion and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.
Sub section (2) of this section 39 states that ” without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, established and Operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions.
Even though this subsection states that the excercise of this freedom in subsection (2) of sub section 39 places a kind of limitation to excercise of this right by stating” provided that no person other than the government of the Federation or of a state or any other person or body authorized by the President on the fulfillment of the CONDITIONS laid down by the act of the National Assembly, shall own, establish or operate a television or wireless broadcasting station for any purpose whatsoever, subsection (3) of the same section 39 states that not withstanding this limitation or condition, ” nothing in this section (39) particularly subsection (2) shall invalidate any law that is reasonable justifiable in a democratic society.
WHAT LAWS ARE REASONABLE JUSTIFIABLE IN DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY WITH RESPECT TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION.
Article Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, UDHR clearly provides that ” everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, this right includes freedom to hold opinion without interference and to seek , receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Nigeria is a signatory to this magna carter and must be bound by its provisions including the area that has to do with right to freedom of expression without unreasonable interference, restrictions or unbearable conditionalities.
By virtue of Fundamental Rights Enforcement Rules 2009 under Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution as ammended, United Nations Declaration on Human Rights and other other international instruments have been adopted by the Constitution.
It states in Section 3(b) of its preamble that ” for the purpose of advancing but never for the restricting the applicant’s Rights and freedoms, the court (in Nigeria) shall respect municipal, regional and international bills of rights cited to it or brought to its attention of which the court is aware, whether these bills constitute instruments in themselves or form parts of the larger documents like constitutions. Such bills include:
a. The Universe Declaration on Human Rights and other instruments (including protocols) in the United Nations human rights system
Another instrument of United Nations Human rights system is International Convention on Civil and political rights-ICCPR. The convention states declares that “freedom of expression includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of a person’s choice.
The summary of the foregoing is that Nigeria people and residents have absolute right to seek for, receive and desiminate information, ideas or opinion through the internet medium of Twitter platform without any restriction by any authority or person in Nigeria. Suspension of Twitter in Nigeria is a gross violation of that right and any attempt by the police or DSS to arrest anybody on the unlawful order of the Attorney General or his agent is a call for anarchy.
Recently there was media report of threat by agents of the state to prosecute Pastor Amos Adebayo, Pastor WF Kumuyi and others purported to have ignored the directive of the government to stop using Twitter in Nigeria. That is Very funny and tantamount to ridiculing the exalted office of Attorney General of Nigeria because, definitely there is no law banning Twitter in Nigeria. Where Malami and his likes are leading Nigeria is a country of RULE OF WORDS instead of RULE OF LAWS and that is absolute DICTATORSHIP.
Another funny aspect of the this ugly development of disregard to rule of law is the directive that the Twitter and other social media platforms to register in Nigeria. In that case too there is no law to that effect and can never be except section 39 sub section 2 of 1999 Constitution is ammended is reviewed through constitutional ammendment.
For clarity sake it is only Television or Wireless Broadcasting Stations that the National Assembly is empowered by the Constitution to make laws regulating its existence or operations in Nigeria. That being the case we do not know where Abubakar Malami and Lai Mohammed, Ministers of Information and his counterpart in the Justice Ministry derived their powers to order for arrest and prosecution of Nigerians and residents using Twitter in excercise of their inalienable rights of seeking for, receiving and or imparting ideas, information or opinions in their fatherlabd as protected by section 39 of our grand norm- the Constitution and ordering for Twitter and other internet bound social media platforms. Twitter and others of similar nature which are not Television or Wireless broadcast media to register as a condition precedence of operation in Nigeria. If they try to come up with one, it will be ultravire to section 39 of the constitution.
OBVIOUS IMPLICATIONS AND CONSEQUENCES.
In view of the foregoing, we wish to declare categorically that the actions of the Federal Government of Nigeria of banning Twitter in Nigeria is grossly unlawful and violation of the right of Nigeria people and residents in the country to free expression and call for anarchy and doom.
Already, the ban, order for arrest and prosecution of users and directive for registration of Twitter in Nigeria are already generating a lot of tension everyday and attracting condemnation by the international community.
The obvious implication of this ugly development is that the country is fastly degenerating into full scale dictatorship with more plans and actions targeted against free speech, right to freedom of assembly and association and movement. The Consequences are crackdown, intimidation, unwarranted and unlawful arrests and other mode of repression and suppression antithetical to democratic norms that will lead to resistance, anarchy and other unpalatable outcome like sanctions from the international community and branding Nigeria A PERIA state.
CALL FOR ACTION.
In order to stop this ugly development, we call for the resignation of the three princioal actors in government of federation that initiated this idea and driving the them with all high speed rate. They are the Minister for information and that of Justice, Lai Mohammed and Abubakar Malami respectively, and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media, Mr Garba Shehu.
We call on the Nigeria representatives at the National Assembly to come up with a more proactive measures to compel the Executive to restore Twitter immediately, stop the attempt the attempt to actualise the threat for arrest and prosecution of users and and l directive for registration of social media because it is an indirect implementation of what they failed to achieve through their failed hate speech bill.
We further call on the Nigerians to adopt the strategy of isolating specific actors in the government that are responsible of various anti people’s policies of the government and stage consistent protest of demand of their removal by the government through consistent protests and other forms of social campaign and mass agitation until they are removed. That is one of the ways of quickening positive reforms and bringing in progressive people based policies and actions in governance. To this end we call on the other organised labour, workers, Civil Society organisations, Nigeria Bar Association, students, woman, the youths, faith-based organisations and other mass-based groups, patriotic elders, political class and business category to unite and embark on consistent demand for removal of Lai Mohammed, Garba Shehu and Abubakar Malami for trying to plunge the country and the people into dictatorship and anarchy. No group should feel indifferent because the Consequences of their actions will affect everybody in one way or the other.
Also, we call on International Community, United Nations and other bilateral and multilateral agencies to bring pressure on the Nigeria Government and start placing sanctions on those in government that are responsible for abuse of human rights and other virtues of democracy and good governance in Nigeria including the president and their collaborators at the National Assembly starting now by compellng them reverse their actions and obnoxious directives.
Ultimately, we call on Nigeria people to include the resignation or removal of Lai Mohammed, Abubakar Malami and Garba Shehu from the government of Nigeria for their actions and roles in the violation of fundamental rights of Nigeria with respect to right to freedom of expression and access to medium of expression through Twitter in the charter of demand during the June 12 protests
We specifically call on the USA, UK, EU, UN etc to sanction these three officers of the government responsible for banning/indefinite suspension of Twitter in Nigeria as well as the president, Mohammed Bihari, Senate President, Ahmed Lawal and Speaker of House of Reps, Gbajiabiamila until the Twitter is restored. They should be stopped from traveling to their countries for whatever purpose including health matters.
Comrade Osmond Ugwu
President, International Solidarity for Peace and Human Rights Initiative,
Leader, Mass Movement for True Democracy, Integral Development and Good Governance and Convener, Coalition of Civil Society, Workers and Human Rights Defenders.
Comrade Dr Jerry Chukwuokolo,
Deputy Leader of Movement for True Democracy, Integral Development and Good Governance.
Comrade Zulu Ofoelue,
Secretary, Coalition for Civil Society, Workers and Human Rights Defenders
Comrade Emma Eneh,
Deputy Secretary General of Mass Movement for True Democracy, Integral Development and Good Governance
Comrade Cosmas Chukwu.
Director of Nedia Publicity, Mass Movement for True Democracy, Integral Development and Good Governance.