Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has backtracked on his move to prosecute Nigerians who make use of Twitter despite the suspension of the microblogging site by the Nigerian government.
There have been reports that Malami had directed the arrest and prosecution of people who defy the ban Twitter
But since the ban, many Nigerians have been using Twitter with the help of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), with some even sharing details online so that more people could access the microblogging site.
A number of clerics have also defied the ban by tweeting, and the list includes the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye and the General Superintendent of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry, Pastor William Kumuyi.
However, Malami denied he ever ordered the arrest and prosecution of those using Twitter despite the ban.
He also denied that the government would go after religious leaders for tweeting.
But what he probably forgot was that the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, confirmed that he had directed the arrest and prosecution of those still using Twitter.
In an interview with BBC Africa Focus last Monday, while responding to a question about Adeboye’s violation of the ban, the Minister of Information and Culture, Mohammed, said, “The attorney-general has made it clear that if anyone violates the regulation, that such person will be prosecuted. I think it is the right of the attorney-general to decide who to prosecute.”
“The government has suspended indefinitely, the operations of Twitter in Nigeria because of the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence and the government
“Also directed the National Broadcasting Commission to immediately commence the process of licencing all social media operations in Nigeria,” he also said during the interview.
However, Malami has made a U-turn, saying the government would not go after Twitter users but rather go after people or companies that enable Twitter to circumvent the ban.
Speaking to Vanguard on Thursday, Malami said, “It is within their guaranteed fundamental right to tweet from anywhere in the world. Nigeria, being a democratic nation, cannot stop its citizens from exercising their rights of freedom of expression.
“But our position on Twitter is clear: Anyone, whether individual or corporate institution that enables Twitter to circumvent the ban the Federal Government of Nigeria placed on the company, will be prosecuted.
“Our statement outlining our position on June 1, 2021 did not ask the DPP to prosecute Nigerians using twitter or any social media platform to express their view. But we are going to use the legal instruments at our disposal to go after those who aid and abet Twitter to continue to threaten our corporate existence as a nation.
“It is clear from the barrage of insinuations and falsehood being orchestrated by some Nigerians and those trying to change the clear position of the Government of Nigeria to suit their whims and caprices and to whip up sentiments to hoodwink the people, that they are up to some mischievous and sinister games, which the Federal Government will not condone.
“At no time did we threaten any religious leader for using Twitter to express themselves. Neither did we indicate in any way that we were going after them. But mischief-makers were quick to mention names of religious leaders and give the impression that we were already in court to try them.
“Let it be made clear that the Buhari administration being a people-centred government that relies on the rule of law, will never adopt any policy or programme that seeks to add pain or injury to the very people who elected it to serve them.
“For the record, let it be made amply clear that the AGF, Abubakar Malami, is not after any Nigerian, tweeting from Nigeria or anywhere in the world but that any Nigerian company or entity that gives a helping hand for Twitter to escape the ban placed on it, will be dealt with.”