The federal government has said the suspension of the operations of Twitter in Nigeria does not violate the freedom of expression of Nigerians.
In its preliminary objection to a suit filed by a civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), and 176 other entities, the government argued that banning Twitter had criminalised the operations of the social media platform in Nigeria.
The government, however, argued that such ban did not affect the freedom of expression of Nigerians.
The Federal Government’s objection, read in part:
“Particulars: The subject matter of the SERAP suit relates to the indefinite suspension of Twitter in Nigeria. This is not in any way connected to any Nigerian or SERAP. Individual user’s Twitter accounts are not suspended.”
“The right to freedom of expression is completely different from freedom of reach. The suspension of Twitter does not fall under the provisions of article 8 and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”
“Twitter as an entity is not an organisation of any member state as it is an American microblogging networking service. The suspension of Twitter in Nigeria is not a right recognised under any treaty enforceable by this Court.”
“In the unlikely event that this Honourable Court agrees with SERAP that the suspension of Twitter is a fundamental right, the dissolution or liquidation of Twitter as a profit-making entity may as well open a floodgate and vest the users the rights of a non-existent right.”
“Twitter is a profit-making entity which can be proscribed/dissolved in compliance with any national laws. The compulsory shut down of an entity cannot be termed the breach of any fundamental rights by this Honourable Court.”
“The suspension of Twitter in Nigeria is in compliance with the provisions of sections 420, 419 of the Penal Code [Northern Nigeria]; Federal Provisions Act, and section 58 of the Criminal Code Act. The operation of Twitter is in violation of Nigerian domestic legislation.”
“Ground Two: This Court lacks the jurisdiction to determine the criminalization of an act under Nigerian laws. The subject matter of the SERAP suit borders on the criminalization of Twitter operation in Nigeria pursuant to the Penal Code and the Criminal Code.”
“The use and operation of Twitter in Nigeria constitutes the offences of Importation of Prohibited publication under sections 420 and 421 or the offence of possession of seditious articles under section 419 of the Penal Code Federal Provisions Act.”
“In any event there is a right of action vested in the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, the said right vests directly on Twitter and not individual users of Twitter. This is more so that individual user’s Twitter accounts were not tempered but only the operation of Twitter.”
“Nigerians and SERAP have no cause of action. The suspension of Twitter in Nigeria is in compliance with the provisions of sections 420, 419 of the Penal Code and section 58 of the Criminal Code, and sections 78 and 79 of CAMA 2020.”