As at 9:230 p.m., the microblogging site, Twitter, was still live in Nigeria as another social media platform, Facebook, pulled down the same message by President Muhammadu Buhari that led to the controversial deletion that put the Federal Government on war path with Twitter.
On the local front, the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) has indicated its interest to challenge the Federal Government’s decision, expressing fear for foreign investment in the country; while the Social and Economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP) was emphatic on going to court to challenge the government action.
Said Facebook, “In line with our global policies, we’ve removed a post from President Buhari’s Facebook page for violating our Community Standards against inciting violence.
“We remove any content, from individuals or organisations that violates our policies on Facebook.”
The Federal Government had suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria.
But many Nigerians mocked the government for banning Twitter on Twitter, while allowing the ban to continue running on the platform three hours after.
The government wasn’t without its share of supporters. Otams Princewill @otamssweet retorted to one critic: “You know nothing. The suspension was communicated to Twitter officially; and not on or through Twitter. The announcement made here is so people like you would know what’s up.”
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced the suspension in a statement issued in Abuja on Friday, citing the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.
The Minister said the Federal Government has also directed the National Broadcasting l Commission (NBC) to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria.
Olumide Akpata, the NBA president in a tweet wrote: “The Nigeria Bar Association has noted with great concern the extraordinary decision of the Federal Govt to suspend the operations of @Twitter in Nigeria and, by necessary implication, the right of Nigerians to freely express their constitutionally guaranteed opinions through that medium.
“The FGN also directed the Nigeria Communications Commission @NgComCommission to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria, which is, at best, yet another disguised attempt to regulate social media, restrict freedom of speech and shrink civic space.
“Whether one likes it or not, we are operating a constitutional democracy, the primary consequence of which is that everything must be done according to law; government must be conducted within the framework of recognised rules and principles which restrict discretionary power.
“The NBA finds no constitutional or legal authority to support the peremptory action of the Federal Government to suspend the operations of Twitter in Nigeria. Beyond the dent on our constitutional democracy, at a time when the Nigerian economy is unarguably struggling the impact of arbitrary decisions such as this on investor confidence is better imagined.
“Consequently, if this decision is not immediately reversed, the NBA will have no choice but to challenge same in the interest of the public and for the sake of our democracy.”
Meanwhile, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has condemned the “illegal and unconstitutional suspension of Twitter’s Operations in Nigeria,” and called on “the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately rescind the suspension within 48 hours or face legal action.”
SERAP in a statement by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said: “The suspension of Twitter in Nigeria is a blatant violation of Nigerians’ rights to freedom of expression and access to information. The suspension has the character of collective punishment and is contrary to Nigeria’s international obligations. President Buhari must immediately rescind this unconstitutional suspension. We will see in court if the suspension is not rescinded within 48 hours.”
The statement, read in part: “Suspending Twitter in Nigeria would deny Nigerians’ access to information, and disrupt the free exchange of ideas and the ability of individuals to connect with one another and associate peacefully on matters of shared concern. It would also seriously undermine the ability of Nigerians to promote transparency and accountability in the country, and to participate in their own government.”
“We call on the Nigerian authorities to guarantee the constitutionally and internationally recognized human rights of Nigerians including online. Deletion of President Buhari’s tweets should never be used as a pretext to suppress the civic space and undermine Nigerians’ fundamental human rights.