We have not stopped Nigerians from using Twitter — FG tells court

The Federal Government of Nigeria has told a High Court in Lagos that it hasn’t prevented Nigerians from utilizing microblogging platform, Twitter.

The operations of Twitter were suspended by the President Buhari-led government on June 4, 2021.

Twitter was accused of “undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence”; and telecommunication companies were subsequently instructed to deny subscribers access to Twitter.

Some Nigerians have been using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to circumvent the ban by concealing their browsing locations.

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In a counter-affidavit it deposed in response to an originating motion filed by human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, the federal government said the suspension of Twitter was not an abuse of human rights, because Nigerians are still using Twitter despite the suspension.

In the fundamental human rights suit marked FHC/L/CS/542/2021, 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, because doing so is a violation of his rights and those of millions of Nigerians.

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However, in an affidavit deposed by Mr. Ilop Lawrence on behalf of the federal government and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami, the federal government stated that the suspension of Twitter is not an abuse of human rights because Nigerians are still using Twitter despite the suspension.

The affidavit reads in part: “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.

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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 government also told the court that Nigerians are still free to use other social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Tiktok etc.