How legal is Twitter’s suspension in Nigeria?
The Federal Government of Nigeria has insisted that there are laws backing the suspension of micro-blogging platform, Twitter, in Nigeria despite heavy backlash from countries and very important personalities across the world.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed made this known in a presentation to the House of Representatives Joint Committee on the Suspension of Twitter in Nigeria.
Mohammed said Twitter was used to disseminate information “that endangers the life and security” of Nigerians and cause disunity in the country.
“Public Interest takes precedent over individual interest Section 45(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is to the effect that: “45 (1) Nothing in Sections 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of this Constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society: a. In the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health,” Mohammed said in his presentation to the House of Representatives.
“The purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other person” The above provisions of Section 45 of the Constitution leave no one in doubt that the provisions of Section 39 of the Constitution on Freedom of Expression is not absolute.”
He said the right to free expression within the contemplation of Section 39 makes it a qualified right in light of the aforementioned Section 45, which permits restrictions of civil liberties in the public interest.
Mohammed said in the circumstance the provisions of Section 3 of the National Security Act, which clothes the State Security Services (SSS) with the powers to preserve the internal security of Nigeria is instructive, as it provides a lawful basis for the Federal Government to maintain that the ban of Twitter was pursuant to the security reports of the SSS in this regard.
“For clarity, Section 3 of the National Security Act reads:(3) The State Security Service shall be charged with responsibility for- (a) the prevention and detection within Nigeria of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria; (b) the protection and preservation of all non-military classified matters concerning the internal security of Nigeria; and (c) such other responsibilities affecting internal security within Nigeria as the National Assembly or the President, as the case may be, may deem necessary,” Mohammed said
The minister further stated that the Twitter was indirectly or directly rendering the supports of terrorisms in Nigeria quoting section 45 of the constitution in light of provisions of Section 5(1) and (2) of the Terrorism Act of 2011.
Mohammed had in the past also alleged that Twitter founder Jack Dorsey raised funds through Bitcoins to sponsor the #EndSARS protest in October 2020 while his platform, Twitter, was used to fuel the crisis.
He said platform was being used to promote the views of those who wanted to destabilize the country.
Mohammed also said the government was right to suspend Twitter because it is not registered in Nigeria.
“As it regards that operation of a foreign companies in Nigeria, the law provides that a foreign company which fails to take necessary steps to obtain incorporation as a separate entity in Nigeria for that purpose, but until so incorporated, the foreign company shall not carry on business in Nigeria or exercise any powers of a registered company,” Mohammed said.
“See Section 78 (1) Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020. Hence, flowing from this background a foreign Company as Twitter cannot be clothed with the legitimate rights to operate as a company registered in Nigeria, as they are not licensed accordingly.”
Mohammed also maintained that there was a need to protect the country’s cyber space which does not only apply to Twitter alone but other social media platform.
“Following the above, the Federal Government of Nigeria is further empowered to take all reasonable steps to defend its cyber space where it perceives or finds that a Cyber-crime, is threatened to be committed, has been committed, or is being committed on and through its cyber space,” Mohammed said.
“For instance, where a seditious act has been committed against the Federal Government through the Cyber Space. (See Section 51 (2) of the Criminal Code which punishes the crime of sedition).”
Mohammed said Federal Government decision to ban the activities of Twitter for being a national security threat is well founded in law in light of the fact that the platform affords IPOB, an organization already proscribed by the Federal High Court, to champion its seditious and terrorist-based activities.