Despite the threat by Nigeria’s Federal Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), to prosecute Nigerians who tweet in defiance of the government’s suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria, Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and 26 other organisations and individuals have vowed to keep on tweeting.
In a statement issued on June 7, 2021, the leaders of civil society organisations that work on governance, corruption, elections, digital rights & inclusion, women’s rights and journalism in Nigeria said they “strongly support statements released by various civil society organisations and other stakeholders, condemning the suspension of the microblogging platform, Twitter, in Nigeria, as this represents a continued assault on the civic space and anti-democratic clampdown on free speech.”
The groups said they were aware of the statement credited to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, threatening to arrest anyone who continues to tweet after the announced suspension and therefore came out to categorically say that they, as individuals, and their organisations, do not know any law that the act of sharing information breaks, and will continue to use Twitter, other social media platforms, and other media channels, to share information and engage with citizens.
They noted that Section 36(12) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) makes it impossible to convict any person for a criminal offence if that offence is not defined and its penalty not prescribed in a written law. On the power of Section 36(12) which protects a fundamental human right, they noted and stated unequivocally that the Attorney General’s statement threatening to prosecute citizens using Twitter contravenes the Constitution and is a violation of human rights and an utter abuse of power.
The group said it stands with Nigerians who continue to exercise their fundamental human rights, especially as Nigeria prepared to celebrate Democracy Day on Saturday, June 12.