Human rights lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, says the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, lacks the powers to make laws through his declarations or pronouncements, adding that only the National Assembly has the exclusive preserve to make laws in the country.
Ozekhome also said the AGF should be prepared to build thousands of prisons to host the millions of Nigerian Twitterati community who defy the government’s ban of the microblogging site.
In a statement on Sunday titled, ‘The Twitter Ban, Prosecution, More Prisons And The Link With The JUSUN Strike’, the senior advocate also urged the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria to call off its strike to enable citizens challenge the excesses of the Federal Government in court.
Though mobile operators have blocked their customers in the country from using Twitter, however, many Nigerians have switched to the use of Virtual Private Networks to bypass the blockage.
Malami subsequently directed the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation to “swing into action and commence in earnest the process of prosecution of violators of the Federal Government de-activation of operations of Twitter in Nigeria”.
But Ozekhome said, “How I wish that Malami’s APC (All Progressives Congress) Government, has displayed such alacrity and sense of urgency on the grave insecurity challenges of the country; the parlous economy and the mounting corruption ravaging our land.”
The senior advocate also said it is “crystal clear that neither Malami, the DPP, nor this government, can prosecute any Twitter user.
“Using Twitter is not a known crime or written offence. The NASS has not enacted any law banning the use of the social media, including Twitter. Mere verbal pronouncement, declaration, directives or threats by the Attorney-General, do not amount to a Law validly passed by the NASS.”
“Any Nigerian arrested or detained should immediately proceed to the sub-regional West African Court situate in Abuja. The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights is there to protect the rights of citizens of Nigeria. The Court that operates it (the West African Court) is there right now, fully operational.
“We operate a constitutional democracy where things are done according to the Rule of Law and within our Constitutional organogram. We do not operate rule of the thumb or rule of men. It is always better to build strong institutions rather than strong men. My one kobo piece of advice to this clueless Government that spreads pains, agony, pangs and blood like manure on plants,” he added.
Nigeria had about 33 million active social media users as of January 2021. WhatsApp is the most popular platform used in the country, with over 90 million users according to Statista. Also, according to Statista, about 61.4 per cent of Nigerian social media users use Twitter, 86.2 per cent use Facebook, 81.6 per cent use YouTube, 73.1 per cent use Instagram, and 67.2 per cent use Facebook Messenger.
Recall reported that Twitter deleted a post by the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, last week.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, subsequently accused Twitter of double standards and of being complicit in some ‘insurrections’ in the country since last October during the #EndSARS protests. Mohammed later announced the suspension of Twitter on Friday, citing the “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence”.