#TwitterBanNigeria: Is it even legal?

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The quick reply isn't any. The lengthy reply...

On Friday the 4th of June, Nigeria’s Minister of Info, Lai Mohammed, introduced that the nation’s federal authorities could be suspending Twitter’s operations inside Nigeria. This got here after Twitter deleted a tweet by the nation’s president the place he threatened “civil warfare” kind violence on residents of the nation.

Following this announcement, within the early hours of Saturday, June 5, Nigerian Twitter customers discovered that they may solely entry the location with the usage of a VPN (Digital Personal Community) which permits folks to entry blocked web sites by masking their precise areas. 

The lack of entry formally befell after the Nigerian Communications Fee (NCC) issued a directive to all telcos and Web Service Suppliers (ISPs) instructing them to limit their customers’ entry to the social media platform.

Whereas there are ongoing debates round how the ban impacts Nigeria’s digital financial system and what it means for freedom of speech within the nation, one problem that hasn’t been addressed is the legality of this motion by the chief arm of the Nigerian authorities.

In a democracy, varied arms of presidency exist to work collectively and preserve one another in test.

Whereas one arm makes legal guidelines, one other enforces; however it’s uncommon for one arm to implement a regulation that the opposite didn’t make. That is the state of affairs in Nigeria at this time because the directive barring the usage of Twitter shouldn’t be at present backed by any regulation handed by the nation’s legislature.

In response to the Twitter ban, Malechi Okafor, a lawyer and managing associate at M & O Authorized Companies stated, “It’s unprecedented as a result of we by no means thought we might get to some extent the place a democratically elected chief would attempt to remove the voice of the folks.”

Whereas he’s at present a democratic chief, President Buhari, a retired military basic and former army head of state, shouldn’t be a stranger to muzzling the media as his regime within the Nineteen Eighties was one wrought with media clampdowns.

In what looks as if an encore efficiency, President Buhari’s 1984 media clampdowns have taken a brand new kind because the Legal professional Normal of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, issued a directive on the fifth of June that residents discovered nonetheless utilizing Twitter have been to be prosecuted.

With this we all of the sudden have two issues to be addressed: was blocking Twitter authorized and may folks be prosecuted for carrying on tweeting with their VPNs.

The Almighty NCC

In my dialogue with Imade Iyamu, a company lawyer at Banwo and Ighodalo, she shed some gentle on what precise powers the Nigerian Communications Fee has on the subject of telcos and ISPS.

“Identical to the CBN has a whole lot of energy over banks, the NCC has the ability to problem directives,” she stated.

However the truth that a directive is issued doesn’t make it fully authorized. Because of this the courts exist, to permit residents or involved entities to problem directives or actions carried out by the federal government or its parastatals.

So to reverse the choice, we should head to the courts then?

Effectively, not precisely. In Nigeria, the courts have been inactive for weeks because the courtroom staff, beneath the umbrella of the Judiciary Workers Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), have been on strike for weeks now. It has nevertheless been reported on Wednesday that the strikes have been suspended and the courts will reopen on Monday the 14th of June.

JUSUN has very clear calls for. In 2020, President Buhari signed an govt order mandating that state governors adhere to a provision within the nation’s 1999 structure that offers the judiciary monetary autonomy and entry to a federal fund. The governors have ignored this.

“The Nationwide Meeting has a price range that they handle. The judiciary ought to have one as effectively to pay themselves and deal with their affairs – to be actually impartial,” Okafor tells me throughout our speak.

A very impartial judiciary could be the recourse of the folks at the moment however that isn’t one thing that’s at present out there.

With out the courts, the directive by the NCC stands unchallenged and whereas that is in itself an issue, the larger downside lies within the directive issued by the nation’s legal professional basic and minister of justice. 

Then there’s Malami

“You may’t declare that individuals needs to be prosecuted with no written regulation,” this sentiment expressed by Iyamu throughout our name is one I’ve heard from a number of legal professionals each offline and on Twitter.

The directive issued by the legal professional basic is illegal. That a lot is evident.

One of many tenets of a democratic society like ours is the concept legal guidelines are deliberated on and handed by a physique of elected officers – the legislature. These legal guidelines can then be enforced by the chief department and interpreted by the judiciary. The legal professional basic falls into the category of the previous however on this regard, he has no regulation to implement. Only one he has made himself.

Two days in the past, the nation’s home of representatives invited the Minister of Info, Lai Mohammed, to ask questions concerning the Twitter ban.

There was no official assertion from the legislature concerning Malami’s declaration that the usage of Twitter will probably be met with prosecution. Whereas VPNs present momentary succour from the irrational directive of the NCC, Malami’s push for prosecution is perhaps dangerous to residents who proceed to make use of Twitter as is protected by their proper to free speech.

So, is the present Twitter ban with the specter of prosecution unlawful? You wager it’s. However till the courts open on Monday and the folks get an opportunity to train their rights, I assume we’ll have to attend.

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