Civil society organisations numbering 70 have called on the Federal Government to reverse the ban placed on Twitter and withdraw the threat to prosecute anyone using the app in the country.
The groups in a statement jointly signed on Monday condemned the action of the Federal Government describing it as ‘unlawful.’
“We, the undersigned civil society organizations are concerned about the repression and escalating crackdown on human rights by the Nigerian government, particularly the rights to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom.
“We strongly condemn the arbitrary and unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, by the authorities, and the resulting restrictions on the human rights of people, as well as the threat to prosecute anyone using Twitter in Nigeria.
“We, therefore, call on the Nigerian authorities to immediately rescind the unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria and withdraw the threat to prosecute anyone using Twitter in the country,” the statement read in part.
The groups also condemn the “directive” issued by the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) for all broadcast stations to deactivate their Twitter accounts.
They asked that the Federal Government, “Immediately withdraw the directive to broadcast stations to deactivate their Twitter accounts.”
The groups asked that the Federal Government end the widespread impunity for human rights violations, in particular the rights to freedom of expression including online, access to information and media freedom.
They called on the international community, including the UN and the African Union to publicly condemn the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria and to put pressure on the Nigerian authorities to reverse the decision.
According to the groups, Social media platforms have helped Nigerians to receive information, impart the same, hold useful conversations, and hold the Nigerian authorities to account. A clear example is how social media was used to drive police accountability in the #EndSARs protests last year.
They lamented that the Nigerian authorities have also set plans in motion to force social media platforms to register in Nigeria and comply with local regulations before they are licensed to operate.
“The Nigerian authorities have continued to propose laws to regulate the social media, and restrict the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom, including through legislative bills popularly known as the ‘Hate Speech Bill’ and ‘The Social Media Bill’ which both provide severe punitive sanctions such as the death penalty in some cases, for social media users convicted of “crimes” provided under them,” they added.
The civil groups said the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria is inconsistent and incompatible with the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) and the country’s international human rights obligations including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The statement was jointly signed by Amnesty International Nigeria; CISLAC (Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre); Global Rights; Nigeria Mourns; Business and Human Rights Roundtable; Tap Initiative for citizens development; Civil society consortium on civic space; Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD); Alliances for Africa; WILPF Nigeria; Echoes of Women in Africa Initiatives; Akubeze Okocha; B.E.E Initiative; Access to Justice; Sterling Centre for Law & Development; Concerned Nigerians; JENNON-PIUS &Co initiative; Education as a Vaccine; Invictus Africa; Dinidari Foundation; Raising New Voices Initiative; Centre for Impact Advocacy (CIA); Stand To End Rape Initiative (STER); BudgIT; The Interactive Initiative for Social Impact; Enough is Enough (EiE); Yiaga Africa; among others.