#Twitter Ban: Civil Society Groups Say Action Stifles Freedom of Expression, Hampers Businesses

#Twitter Ban: Civil Society Groups Say Action Stifles Freedom of Expression, Hampers Businesses

…Reveal Nigeria Loses $250,000 Per Hour …Resolve to Push on With Campaign to Unban Platform …Ban Will be Lifted Soon…Lai Mohammed Leading civil society organisations in Nigeria have bemoan the Twitter Ban imposed by the Federal Government of Nigeria since June 4th, 2021, saying that the action has stifled freeedom of expression and hampered businesses.

…Reveal Nigeria Loses $250,000 Per Hour

…Resolve to Push on With Campaign to Unban Platform

…Ban Will be Lifted Soon…Lai Mohammed

Leading civil society organisations in Nigeria have bemoan the Twitter Ban imposed by the Federal Government of Nigeria since June 4th, 2021, saying that the action has stifled freeedom of expression and hampered businesses. This is coming on the backdrop of assurances by the Minister for Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed that the ban on Twitter will be lifted soon.

At a conference, held on Monday, September 13 to mark 100 days since the ban, they took a critical look at the origin of the ban, the blatant disregard for rule-of-law by the federal government and the impact of the action to the economy and the citizenry.

Speaking at the session, Executive Director, Enough Is Enough (EiE) Nigeria, Ms Yemi Adamolekun described the ban as a disservice to the government, who, in a bid to stifle its citizens, had also destroyed the positive impact of agencies like the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), which before the ban provided COVID-19 updates and kept citizens aware and conscious of the pandemic.

She said: “We have issues like unemployment, a pandemic, insecurity, poverty, and absence of a sense of belonging, the government neglected their concerns and moved to ban Twitter.

“If the government of Nigeria wanted to ban Twitter, they could have done it legally, but there is no document, either a legal document or court order backing their action. This is a gross violation of human rights, and we must hold the government accountable.

“Twitter has shown its ability to help mobilise younger Nigerians and give them a voice. And as we go on to the 2023 general election and as long as the federal government chooses not to deal with the fundamental issues that Nigerians have. And as long as there’s a place that Nigerians can exercise their voice — Twitter, radio, Facebook, Instagram — they will find a way to express themselves.”

Adamolekun also stated that the action of the Federal Government “is just laziness and shows they are not ready to solve the problems on the table”.

Also present at the event was Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative (PIN), Mr Gbenga Sesan who confirmed that the ban had negatively impacted revenue projections of many businesses.

Citing the report by NetBlocks, he said, “Nigeria has lost about $250,000 every hour since the Twitter ban, a figure arrived at using the Brookings Institution method.”

He added that though the government claimed the social media platform was being used by warmongers to destabilise the country, “the ban was more about the ego of the President and the lies of the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed who could not comprehend the boldness and wit with which young Nigerians demanded accountability from their leaders on the platform.”

Sesan noted that the present administration, having failed in doing its job of arresting criminals and terrorists who use social media, decided to stifle the entire population and make Nigerians suffer for its failings.

Giving an insight into some of the activities carried out by CSOs since the ban, Director of Programmes, Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Mr Ayode Longe, stated that as soon as the Twitter ban came into effect, civil groups jointly condemned the action, and called on the federal government to withdraw the order.

Longe stated that the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) led 176 concerned Nigerians to file the first lawsuit at the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice against the government.

“Following the suit, the ECOWAS Court on June 22, 2021, issued an order restraining the Buhari administration from prosecuting or harassing any Nigerian for using Twitter or any other social media platform in the light of the threat by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), that anyone using Twitter despite the suspension would be prosecuted,” he stated.

In addition, Longe noted that EiE Nigeria also filed a N5bn claim at the Federal High Court in Lagos against four mobile telecommunications operators in Nigeria over their blocking of access to the messaging platform in a class action on behalf of the companies’ subscribers, including PIN and MRA.

In his words, “Despite the legal actions, the Nigerian government has stuck to its guns in continuing the ban. Lai Mohammed said the government would ‘soon reverse the ban’ as meetings have been held with Twitter and some demands made by the government have been met but Twitter has not been unbanned.”

The groups observed that the prolonged ban reflected the poor understanding of the government (and the governed) about a truly democratic state as well as the government’s shameless use of fear and threats in passing draconian orders.

Buttressing this point, Adamolekun said, “Let’s not forget, as a people we were not taught what a Democracy is. What a lot of us grew up understanding is military rule and in military rule you keep yourself to yourself, nobody wanted to die, nobody wanted to end up in jail. So, for us as Nigerians, the power dynamics of a democracy—we don’t understand it.”

The groups reiterated their positions in pursuing the various suits filed against the federal government; ensuring that the voices of Nigerians are heard and encouraging the citizenry to stand their grounds in exercising their rights, as upheld by the Nigerian constitution.

The Federal Government on Wednesday said that it was “very close” to lifting the over 100-day ban on the microblogging platform, Twitter.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, gave the assurance while briefing State House correspondents at the end of Wednesday’s Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Mohammed, who was asked to give an update on the ban and ongoing negotiations with Twitter said, “The end for amicable resolution is very much in sight. We appreciate the patience of Nigerians. I want to assure you that we have made very tremendous progress. We have met with Twitter both physically and in writing. We are almost there.

“The engagement has been extremely positive without any acrimony. We have made it clear what we want from Twitter.”

The Minister stated that some of the conditions the FG gave Twitter is to establish a legal presence in the country by registering as a Nigerian company with an address.

He said, “Thank you very much. I think even Twitter itself two days ago gave what I will call a progress report on our talks with them. And I think if I want to quote them rightly, it has been productive and quite respectful.

“And as to how soon is soon, right? I want to assure you that between the time that Twitter operation has been suspended, and when it will be restored is by far, much, much shorter. That I can assure you that it is by far. In other words, if the operation has been suspended for about 100 days now, I can tell you that we’re just actually talking about a few, just a few more days now.

“What we’re trying to do is the changes that have been going on, but we need to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. I can assure you that we’re mindful of the anxiety of Nigerians and both parties are working very hard to put a closure on the matter.

“And like Twitter itself said, the changes have been very, very productive on both parties.”

Asked for specifics on when the matter would be resolved, he said, “Honestly, we have gone very far, I won’t be specific but we have gone very far, and honestly, it’s just going to be very, very soon, just take my word for that.”

Quizzed further for specifics, he said, “Honestly, I can’t be more specific than what I’ve told you that it is going to be very soon. Thank you.”

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