Every democratic state is bound by definite norms, codes as machinery by which its affairs and well-being is instructed and to ensure the implementation of statutes.
Nigeria being a republican nation with set up application of rules and regulations given the state and to the recognition of rights reserved for citizens which all shall not be deprived of those rights. Based on the ground that they are constitutional rights and breaching it will abruptly raise a legal action for breach of fundamental human right, the rights have been well defined in the chapter iv of 1999CFRN [as amended].
However, among the rights which all legal citizens shall not be restricted to enjoy is freedom of expression and press, that’s inasmuch as you’re a legal citizen of this country you have the right to air your views on whether to peaceful criticism of the government without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanctions through social network or press likewise mass media to air their views on government.
This has been celebrated in section 22 of 1999 CFRN as amended that ” The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this Chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people.
Therefore, freedom of speech is non tampered right which government must be treated with unfolded instruments of effectiveness, none must be deprived from saying his/her idea, opinion, thought in a spoken words or written form. It is an inalienable and unconvertible right of citizens, there in it is very sine qua non to state also that individuals have the rights to establish, own a forum or media as Twitter, Tik tok, Instagram, Facebook etc. which information, news, legal issues,both local and international will be disseminating or discussing by the people of state. This is enshrined in Section the 39 sub 1 and 2 of 1999 CFRN as amended as thus (1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions.
Therefore, all countries surveyed appear to expressly recognize the right to freedom of speech as a constitutional or fundamental right. Freedom of speech, however, is not absolute; all of the countries apply limitations to it at varied levels. This is well explained in the case of SOLOMON OKEDARA v. ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE FEDERATION (2019)LCN/12768(CA) that the right provided under section 39 is not an open-ended or absolute right, the right is qualified and therefore subject to some restrictions by the provisions of section 45 of the Constitution.
Section 45 of the Constitution provides:
“(1) nothing in sections 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of this Constitution, shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justified in a democratic society-
(a) In the interest of defense, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or
(b) for the purpose of protecting the rights and
freedom or other persons.
Banning of Twitter in Nigeria as a solution to curb spreading fake news.
Twitter being a social network or an avenue whereby information is being disseminated to people who have subscribed to it while it serves as a yardstick that people share opinions, ideas, thoughts even their marital status thereon the platform, while in the community reading, Twitter has generated huge attention of people that the veracity any news punched in is of no doubt.
However, the notion of banning the website will amount to breach of constitutional human right which is violation to freedom of expression and the press as mentioned above, thereby, this is succinctly noted in Article 9 of African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) provides that:
Every individual shall have the right to receive information.
Every individual shall have the right to express and disseminate his opinions within permanently.
Also see the citation of Article 19 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which establish that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.”
Additionally, i relay on Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which similarly proclaims the protection for freedom of expression that any interference with the right to freedom of expression and the right to hold free opinions in any media constitutes a violation of human right to freedom of expression.
From this point of view, banning Twitter in Nigeria will amount to violation of international and constitutional human right that guaranteed in section 39 sub 2 of 1999CFRN as amended.
Conditions while Twitter may be banned in Nigeria.
The concept of banning a social network is not a new issue to world, pursuant to the following parameters contained in Article 19 (3) of the ICCPR which provides that:
(a)For respects for the Rights or reputations of others.
(b)For the protection of National Security
(c) public order or of public health and morals.
Furthermore, twitter may be banned if it is used to spread anti-government propaganda, organise mass protests against apparent government injustice or leak classified information or fake news. Therefore it can be banned temporarily or permanently.
For example, African countries such as Egypt and Tunisia restricted Twitter access during the Arab Spring after it had been used to organise a series of anti-government protests and armed revolts against oppression and poverty.
In line with the foregoing explanations, banning Twitter is a total violation of Freedom of expression and the press that is guaranteed by the Constitutional of Federal Republic of Nigeria and we should understand that Nigerians often take to social media to air their views on a wide range of matters, from political issues to social conventions, marital affairs, and religious happenings, Trust, as far as it is trending and controversial, Nigerians will take to their social media, Twitter especially, to hit the nail where it is supposed to, like the ENDSARS campaign. See the case of Ogwuche Esq VS Federal Republic of Nigeria (ECW/CCJ/APP/09/15) [ 2018] ECOWASCJ 2; (13 February 2018).
However, i sublime my submission that Twitter may be banned based on the above grounds, importantly spreading fake news which may lead to unrests, ploy to topple the sitting of government, instigate anarchy, or causing nationwide rebellion, through spreading fake news on Twitter, it can be banned.
As provided under Section 5(1)(a) & (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended), the government has the constitutional and statutory duties to protect lives and property of citizens and ensure the existence of peace and order in any part of the territory of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Bayero University, Kano