A group, representing a list of 36 local and international organizations, Paradigm Initiative, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to lift the ban placed on Twitter in Nigeria, describing it as an abuse of the rights of Nigerians, and just to freedom of expression.
The internet freedom lobby group in an open letter to President Buhari said Twitter, just like many other digital and social media platforms, has become a space for Nigerians to communicate, seek and disseminate information, engage in public debates and legitimate businesses.
“The directive by the Nigerian government is at its core, an abuse of the rights of Nigerians not just to freedom of expression. But many other rights guaranteed in the Nigerian 1999 Constitution (as amended), the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” the group said.
“Like many other governments across the globe, the Nigerian government has leveraged social media platforms to issue critical public information. A recent demonstration of this is the use of Twitter by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to issue information related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, the NCDC Twitter account has a following of 1.1 million. This is an acknowledgement of the importance of social media in reaching a significant proportion of the Nigerian population.”
The lobbyists argue that, according to research by Netblocks, the Nigerian economy has lost at least N2,177,089,051 ($6,014,390) daily since the indefinite suspension was announced.
“First, there is no clear and sufficiently precise law in Nigeria that provides for such action by the government. Second, the government is yet to demonstrate how the suspension protects the rights of others. Third, the government is yet to show that it has used the ‘least intrusive means’ of addressing the harm purported caused before the suspension. Fourth, the Nigerian government has failed to demonstrate that its action to suspend Twitter’s operations was not excessive and over-reaching,” the group added.
They want the government to restore access to Twitter for all Nigerians; ensure that the internet, including social media platforms like Twitter are open, free, and accessible; engage stakeholders, including the civil society, academics, human rights institutions, the private sector on the best approach to social media regulation and put measurable and specific processes in place to promote, protect and fulfill all human rights online and offline.
The lobby group comprises Access Now, Africa Internet Rights Alliance, Internet Society Nigeria, Kathleen Ndongmo, Open Internet for Democracy Fellow (Member, Netrights Africa Coalition, the Africa Digital Rights Network – ADRN), Witness Africa and many others.
On June 4, 2021, the Federal Government indefinitely suspended Twitter’s activities in the country days after the micro blogging social network removed a post from Buhari which had threatened to punish regional secessionist groups