The umbrella body of Nigerian lawyers, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), has threatened to sue the Nigerian government if it fails to reverse its decision to suspend Twitter operations indefinitely in the country.
Many Nigerians have expressed outrage at the ban announced by the information minister, Lai Mohammed, on Friday.
The government had announced the suspension barely 48 hours after the microblogging site deleted a controversial post by President Muhammadu Buhari referencing the country’s civil war, and threatening to treat those attacking government buildings “with the language they understand.”
Reacting to the government’s decision in a thread of tweets posted via his twitter handle, the NBA President, Olumide Akpata, expressed the association’s “great concern” over the implications of the development.
The implications, according to him, extend to “the right of Nigerians to freely express their constitutionally guaranteed opinions through that medium.”
He said there is no Nigerian law that can be cited in support of the ban, reminding the government that the country practises “constitutional democracy” where everything must be done according to recognised rules.
“The Nigerian Bar Association finds no constitutional or legal authority to support the peremptory action of the Federal Government to suspend the operations of Twitter in Nigeria and deprive Nigerians of their right to freely express their constitutionally guaranteed opinions. 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 Nigerian Bar Association will have no choice but to challenge same in the interest of the public and our democracy,” the NBA president’s tweet read in part.
He added that the Nigerian government’s directive to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT (Over The Top) and social media operations in Nigeria, “is, at best, yet another disguised attempt to regulate social media, restrict freedom of speech and shrink civic space.”