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Government denies stopping Nigerians from using Twitter

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Nigeria’s attorney-general and minister for justice Abubakar Malami PHOTO: TWITTER/Abubakar Malami


Nigeria government said it has not stopped people from using Twitter in the country despite announcing the suspension of the operations of the social media platform in the country.

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Nigeria’s attorney-general Abubakar Malami and the government made the claim in a counter-affidavit they deposed to in response to an originating motion filed by human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, who is suing the government on the legitimacy of enforcing a Twitter suspension in Nigeria.

In an affidavit deposed by one Ilop Lawrence on behalf of the government, it was stated that the suspension of Twitter was not an abuse of human rights because Nigerians were still using Twitter despite the suspension.

Many Nigerians are circumventing the suspension order by using virtual private networks after telecommunications companies and internet service providers blocked access to the social media platform.

“The applicant (Effiong) and the class he seeks to represent can still operate those Twitter accounts from anywhere in the world and even from Nigeria,” the lawyer to the government said.

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“Nigerians are still tweeting, even at this moment as the ban on Twitter is not aimed at intimidating Nigerians or an infringement on the rights of Nigerians to express their opinion.

“The respondents (Federal Government and AGF) have never stopped the applicant (Effiong) and the class of persons he seeks to represent from voicing their opinions to access government information and offer criticism where necessary.”

The ban came into effect on Saturday with millions of users blocked from accessing the site. While many young Nigerians are, however, circumventing the ban by using virtual private networks (VPN), Malami had threatened that Twitter users will be prosecuted, saying their actions violate the ban.

But Effiong is seeking nine reliefs, including an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents from further suspending, deactivating or banning the operation and accessibility of Twitter or any other social media service in Nigeria, he says the act was in violation of his rights.

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The lawyer asked the court to declare as illegal the threat of criminal prosecution by Malami against Nigerians who violate the suspension or ban of Twitter.

Days after the Twitter ban, the Nigerian government ordered all radio and television stations to “de-install” their Twitter accounts and barred them from using content from the platform as comments during their programmes.

Major Nigerian stations have since complied with the order from the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC), a regulatory agency that could withdraw their operational licenses.

The government in July announced a delegation of ministers to negotiate with Twitter whose operation remains out of reach for Nigerians on all local internet networks.

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