Prosecution of Twitter users unknown to law, says expert
Posted by News Express | 6 June 2021 | 590 times
•AGF and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami
Constitutional lawyers say plans to prosecute Twitter users in the wake of the government’s ban on the microblogging site is unknown to the country’s law.
In defiance of a ban on Twitter operations in the country, Nigerians continued to log on to the network using virtual private networks and special browsers to mask their IP addresses.
Shortly after the pronouncement, former Ekiti governor Ayodele Fayose tweeted, “AGF Malami, I just tweeted. No shaking!”
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Twitter handle remains online though it was last active on June 1. That was the last tweet before the controversial “civil war” tweet deleted by Twitter, sparking the ongoing ban on the social network.
The prosecution proposed is for anyone using Twitter, but Nigerians continue to engage with news from news outlets going out on Twitter.
Dr Kayode Ajulo, a legal practitioner, said the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami’s pronouncement should have been directed at those who abused social media and not all twitter users, stressing that having carefully studied Nigeria’s various penal laws, nowhere was a citizen of the country prohibited from receiving or disseminating information.
This, according to him, was as a right guaranteed under Section 39 of the Constitution.
He said that relevant laws must be put in place to check any abuse of the social media, as it was the only way offenders could be prosecuted, adding that section 36 (12) of the constitution forbade the prosecution of anyone for an offence not known to law.
Without prejudice to the rationale for the ban of the blogging site, Ajulo said it must be noted that Nigeria’s democracy was a constitutional democracy based on the rule of law.
“Where the rule of law reigns, political expediency ought to be sacrificed on the altar of the rule of law, so as to guarantee the continued existence of democratic institutions."
According to him, this was fashioned to promote social values of liberty, orderly conduct and development, especially given the fact that the constitution of a nation remained “the fons et origo”, not only of the jurisprudence but also of the nation’s legal system.
He added that the constitution remained the beginning and the end of the legal system, the alpha and the omega and the barometer with which Government actions were measured.
Ajulo said: “I am wary to believe that the statement credited to the Honourable Attorney General is, with respect, inchoate as the position of law is clear and unambiguous.
”Whatever directive issued for the prosecution of violators of the ban on the twitter blog in Nigeria, runs contrary to the Letters and the spirit of the Constitution”.
NAN recalled that the AGF had, in a June 5 statement, said that the Federal Government would prosecute twitter users, after the suspension of the site. (Text, excluding headline, courtesy NAN)