By Ebere Agozie
Abuja, June 5, 2021
Justice Minister Abubakar Malami, SAN, has directed the immediate prosecution of offenders of the Federal Government’s ban on Twitter operations in Nigeria.
This is as the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), in a statement by its President, Malam Kabiru A. Yusuf, said that the ban is “regressive and should be rescinded in favour of dialogue.”
Malami’s order is contained in a statement issued by Dr Umar Gwandu, his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations on Saturday in Abuja.
Malami directed the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation (DPPF) of the office of the Attorney General to swing into action and commence in earnest the process of prosecution of violators of the federal government de-activation of operations of Twitter in Nigeria.
He also directed the DPPF to liaise with the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, National Communication Communication (NCC) and other relevant government agencies to ensure the speedy prosecution of offenders without any further delay.
The NPAN’s statement, titled BACKTRACK FROM TWITTER BAN, insisted “that the suspension of Twitter’s operation by Nigeria is wrong and an overreaction.”
The NPAN President, Malam Yusuf, who is also the Chairman and CEO of Daily Trust Newspaper, pointed out in the statement, that the ban would not win the country friends “as closure of public space limits public discourse and democratic advancement,” stressing that the action is “a futile exercise in any case, as other platforms are more likely to suspect Nigeria’s intentions towards democratic tenets and act adversarially towards Nigeria.
Full text of the NPAN statement reads:
BACKTRACK FROM TWITTER BAN
Nigeria yesterday suspended, indefinitely, the operation of the popular social media platform Twitter, for deleting the warning of President Muhammadu Buhari to the insurrectionists in South East Nigeria who have been vandalizing the symbols of the authority of the state. These lawless ones have been committing arson against public assets like police stations, prisons and the courts; freeing prisoners from lawful custody, killing policemen and soldiers as well as harmless civilians. It is a state of fear in the South East of Nigeria as in almost all over the country where terrorists, Kidnappers, farmer/herder clashes have almost crippled Nigeria.
It is to those persons that President Buhari warned that they may be ignorant of the cost of violence and may attract severe sanctions, reminiscent of the 30-month Nigerian civil war, if they persist in unrestrained violence and challenge to the authority of the state.
It is that threat of maximum state reprisal that Twitter found objectionable, according to its stated policy and sanctioned President Buhari with a deletion. This is not the first time Twitter would sanction world leaders for infractions against its stated policy. It did so to President Donald Trump of the United States of America, to global aplomb when Trump instigated violence against the Capitol.
Nigeria has retaliated with the cudgel against Twitter for alleged double standard in a hasty sanctioning of Buhari while pampering an unrestrained Nnamdi Kanu of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Kanu has used same Twitter not just for serial hate speeches but for actually provoking and justifying violence in his separatist agitations.
To the extent that Twitter may have been hasty in sanctioning President Buhari and shown an uneven application of its rules against separatist Kanu, its sincerity stands questioned. It should correct itself.
However, The Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), thinks that the suspension of Twitter’s operation by Nigeria is wrong and an overreaction.
The action would not win us friends as closure of public space limits public discourse and democratic advancement. It is a futile exercise in any case, as other platforms are more likely to suspect Nigeria’s intentions towards democratic tenets and act adversarially towards Nigeria.
Twitter is a global platform for public communication that has expanded the frontiers of Free Speech and Press Freedom. It is a platform for business that has brought relief to Nigeria’s youthful population who have prospered by its operation.
The NPAN believes Twitter as a business is not infallible and can be influenced through high level engagement, to be a more responsive, liberal platform of public good and not a cynical champion of suspicious causes. .
There should be a compromise: Nigeria needs friends and not enemies at this critical juncture of her existence. She should not play into the hands of the enemies who are relentless in seeking to destroy and ostracise her. Banning Twitter is regressive and should be rescinded in favour of dialogue.
Kabiru A. Yusuf
Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria
June 5, 2021