Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has admonished the Federal government to stop the arrogance of power and the “display of ideology of dictatorial might is right” and allow the millions of Nigerian users of the social media platform called Twitter to continue to enjoy their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of expression and association.
The Rights group also asked President Muhammadu Buhari to swallow perceived over-bloated political pride/ego and stop hampering the enjoyment of millions of mostly young Nigerians the economic, social, academic and cultural benefits that come from associating with like-minded talented and creative minds from all over the globe through the social networks provided by the Twitter platform.
“The ban imposed on the use of the social media platform of Twitter is extremely damaging to the global brand of Nigeria and portraying the country as an entity that is unstable and suffers from the tyranny of ignorance,” it said.
HURIWA told the President that it makes no sense that he has become the most widely travelled President during which time he has tried to market Nigeria as a modern-day democracy seeking for credible foreign direct investments to boost our domestic economy but only for the same globetrotting Head of State of Nigeria to unilaterally order the shut down of an economically empowering social media network like Twitter on the nebulous ground that it threatens the national interest of Nigeria.
The Rights group in a statement signed by the National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko said rather than threaten Nigeria’s national interest, Twitter has mainly provided fertile ground for young Nigerians to seek genuine ways of becoming self-employed through the use of technology, while urging Buhari to hearken to the appeals of millions of Nigerians and do the needful since the voice of the people is the voice of God.
According to the group, Buhari is the President today because of the overwhelming support he got from mostly young Nigerians who got to read about his manifestos and developmental blueprints via the many viable social media channels even as the Rights group wondered why Mr President benefitted immensely from Twitter is the same person shutting the door of opportunities to millions of Nigerian youngsters who stood in the rain and sunshine to vote for him.
“We regret to state that the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to unilaterally order millions of Nigerians making use of the Service offered by Twitter to stop, has inflicted unprecedented damage to Nigeria’s International brand as the largest black Constitutional democracy in the World.
“The arbitrary policy of banning Nigerians from enjoying their fundamental freedoms of association and expression has not only painted Nigeria as an emerging dictatorship but as a political entity that is going back to the primitive state of nature.
“HURIWA also faulted the position of the minister of foreign affairs that the ban imposed on Twitter was in the National interest just as the Rights organisation then affirmed that if the use of Twitter is offensive to Nigeria’s National interest, why then does the Federal government officials beginning from the President, the media Advisors of the President and top-level cabinet officers maintaining accounts with Twitter?” We think that the decision is ill-advised and totally repugnant to good reason”.
The Rights group added: “Rather than undermining Nigeria’s National or security interests, the social network of Twitter has substantially helped to create the platform for millions of Nigerians to air their opinions and to suggest viable and practicable solutions to our national malaise. The social media platform of Twitter is also a global marketplace which has provided an abundant avenue for the legitimate generation of revenues and economic benefits for millions of Nigerian Youngsters who were hitherto unemployed.”
“In terms of crime, the security forces of Nigeria do also harvest a monumental volume of actionable intelligence from twitter which they deploy in preventing or combating crimes of various types. Twitter is a minefield of information and intelligence which if properly and professionally collected and interpreted can go a long way in bringing about a better society in Nigeria. The gains of twitter are far greater than the pains if any”.
Citing the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Section 39. (1) which stated thus: Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference”, HURIWA said the shut down of Twitter is a violation of the Constitutional obligations of the government not to interfere arbitrarily with the enjoyment of the constitutional freedoms that are inalienable, universal and sacrosanct.
Also, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Section 40. Stated thus: Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests”.
HURIWA argues that the claim that Nigeria’s suspension of Twitter is in the interest of national security and peace, as stated by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, said in Abuja on Monday, is frivolous and nebulous just as it is illogical and unreasonable.
HURIWA recalled that the foreign minister Mr Onyeama made the declaration at the end of a closed-door meeting he held with ambassadors and representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland and the EU. HURIWA however told the Federal government that it is inconceivable that the international community is asking Nigeria to respect our Constitutional provisions by allowing access to the enjoyment of the freedoms of expression and association but the Nigerian government that ought to defend the sanctity of the GrundNorm is the same persons desecrating the Nigerian Constitution.