Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has given an indication that prominent Nigerian pastor, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye and others, perhaps including another prominent pastor, William F. Kumuyi, will face prosecution for accessing Twitter after last Friday’s ban on the microblogging site by government.
He spoke Monday as the House of Representatives on Tuesday summoned him to brief its joint committee on Communication, Justice, Information and Culture, and National Security and Intelligence on the objectives, intent, and duration of the suspension on the operations of Twitter in Nigeria.”.
In an interview with BBC Africa Focus, on Monday, Lai said, “The government has suspended indefinitely, the operations of Twitter in Nigeria because of the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence and the government.
“It also directed the National Broadcasting Commission to immediately commence the process of licencing all social media operations in Nigeria”
“The attorney-general has made it clear that if anyone violates the regulation, that such person will be prosecuted. I think it is the right of the attorney-general to decide who to prosecute.”
The General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) on Monday insisted on using his Twitter account despite the ban on the social media platform by the Nigerian government.
“The Redeemed Christian Church of God is domiciled in more than 170 nations and rerritories,” Adeboye tweeted on Monday. “The tweets here are in accordance to Article 19 of the UN universal declaration of Human Rights.”
Also, Williams Kumuyi, said the mission’s tweets were targeted at its global audience spread across five continents and over 100 nations.
“In view of the Twitter ban in Nigeria, please note that the content shared on this handle is targeted at a global audience in more than five continents and over 100 nations and we share the content from any of these locations,” Kumuyi was quoted as saying.
Article 19 of the UDHR states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
The House Joint Committee is to immediately commence an investigation to determine the circumstances of the decision by the Federal Government of Nigeria to suspend the operations of Twitter in Nigeria; and the legal authority for the ban on the operations of Twitter in Nigeria.
House Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, said on Tuesday, “The suspension on Twitter in Nigeria has generated fierce debate. The House of Representatives has since the announcement been inundated with comments about the decision, requests for intervention and criticism.
“The House of Representatives recognises that Twitter, like other social media networks, is an important tool for communication and commerce in Nigeria, particularly amongst the younger generation who have used these networks for enterprise and innovation with great success.
“The House also recognises that as social media has been a tool for good, it can also be a tool for bad actors. As such, the government has a legitimate interest in ensuring that these platforms are not used to commit vile actions against individuals and the State.
“The proper role of the legislature in circumstances like this is first to peel back the layers of the decision-making process to unravel the issues until we develop an understanding of the why and the how of executive decisions.
“Following that, the legislature must make sure that regulatory and enforcement actions by the government are in accordance with the laws of the land, that due process of law has been followed to the latter and that the outcomes of regulatory decisions do not result in adverse consequences for the country and all our people. Fidelity to our responsibilities in situations like this requires the legislature and legislators to as in the words of Rudyard Kipling, “keep your head when all about you are losing theirs”.
“We listen to the agitation of the people, but we also hear from the government so that from the abundance of information, we reach the level of awareness that allows us to discharge our role dispassionately.
“It is in service of our obligations under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and our moral duty to the Nigerian people, that the leadership of the House has decided to mandate the House Committees on Communication, Justice, Information and Culture, and National Security and Intelligence to immediately commence an investigation to determine:
a. The circumstances of the decision by the Federal Government of Nigeria to suspend the operations of Twitter in Nigeria; and
b. The legal authority for the ban on the operations of Twitter in Nigeria.
“The Committees are additionally mandated to Invite the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed to brief the House of Representatives on the objectives, intent, and duration of the suspension on the operations of Twitter in Nigeria, and to report to the House within ten (10) days.The report of the Committees will guide further action by the House of Representatives on this matter.
”Therefore, I urge the Committees to act with speed and sound judgment to address this issue that has animated our national conversations over the last few days.”