Twitter Vs. Nigeria; The Human Rights Of Twitter Inc And The Twitter Users


Daily Law Tips (Tip 806) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)

Introduction:   

Nigeria is a democratic state governed by written laws and its government has the mandate to maintain law and order within its territory, at all times. There are fundamental human rights in Nigeria but most of the fundamental human rights are not absolute, since they can be suspended. The Constitution of Nigeria allows government to restrict and limit some fundamental human rights under certain specific circumstances, however, through some legal procedures.

On 5 June 2021, the Federal Government of Nigeria banned Twitter in Nigeria, after the micro-blogging site deleted the tweets (public messages) of the President of Nigeria and as Nigeria puts it; “for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence. “Twitter had deleted the presidential messages, claiming that the message was offensive, being a message threatening to offend the people of southern Nigeria. Facebook also removed similar presidential messages but has not been banned yet. Twitter is a social networking service launched in July 2006 and founded by Jack Dorsey and three others, having a total asset of USD $13.37 Billion as at 2020.

So far, many international and local institutions have condemned the ban on Twitter, including; Amnesty International, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), the Nigerian Bar Association, The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Deeper Christian Life Ministry Worldwide, Online Publishers of Nigeria and many others, as well as the governments of Britain, Canada, United States, Ireland and the European Union.

This work examines the fundamental human rights in Nigeria and the ban on Twitter and Twitter Users in Nigeria. It focuses on the fundamental human rights of Twitter Inc. and other businesses in Nigeria as well as the right of Nigerians (Twitter Users) to express their views through “any media and regardless of frontier”.

Fundamental Human Rights In Nigeria:

Fundamental human rights are basic, elementary, mandatory, compulsory and unshakable entitlements of persons. Fundamental human rights are never purchased rather they are inborn and inbuilt on every person (human being or corporate being). List of Fundamental Human Rights In Nigeria.

There are not too many fundamental human rights in Nigeria. The few fundamental human rights in Nigeria are contained in the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999 and also in the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights has expanded the fundamental human rights in Nigeria.

The fundamental human rights contained in the constitution of Nigeria are: Right to Life, Right to Dignity of Human Person, Right to Personal Liberty, Right to Fair Hearing, Right to Private and Family Life, Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion, Right to Freedom of Expression and the Press, Rights to Peaceful Assembly and Association, Right to Freedom of Movement, Right to Freedom from Discrimination and then, Right to Acquire and Own Immovable Property anywhere in Nigeria.

Generally, these rights should not be violated by any person, including government, the law enforcement agencies or agents in any part of Nigeria. Consequently, where there is a violation or even mere attempted violation of a fundamental human right, the victim and any other person on behalf of the victim, can seek justice against the violator.

Clearly, the fundamental human rights allow Nigerians and foreigners to own businesses and operate their businesses in Nigeria. On this ground, Twitter Inc. (a business owned by Jack Dorsey and others) has the fundamental human rights to operate in Nigeria, however, in accordance with the laws of Nigeria.

Fundamental Human Rights of Twitter Inc. and Users of Twitter:

In Nigeria, people are free to communicate in private and public media, on newspapers, televisions, groups, social networks and others. The fundamental human rights (specifically, the Right to Private and Family Life, Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion, Right to Freedom of Expression and the Press, Rights to Peaceful Assembly and Association) empower such communications. Hence, any unlawful conduct or ban that may tamper with such rights is a violation of the rights.

It is important to mention that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, clearly in Article 19, prohibits the ban or restriction of the choice of media platforms to be used by people in their expression of the rights to freedom of expression and others. The simple diction of Article 19 makes it attractive its reproduction below; “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.

The ban of Twitter, any social media platform or foreign media organization in Nigeria is a violation of the right to Nigerians to air their views through “any media and regardless of frontier”. The ban on media organization is not only a violation of the rights of the media organization but a violation of all users and prospective users of the media organization. However, there are two specific circumstances, wherein government is allowed to lawfully ban and restrict some fundamental human rights. The 2 legal procedures for such are via a written law or a declaration of a state of emergency in a part of Nigeria. “Human Rights That Can Never Be Restricted Even In War, Pandemic or State of Emergency”.

The present ban on Twitter and Twitter Users was made via a social media post and that is no law. mere television/radio comments, policy documents/broadcasts, social media posts or public threats and pleas of President, Governor or their agents are not laws or regulations. At best, such threats/pleas are policy guidelines/directions and in Nigeria, policy guidelines of government are not laws.

Conclusion:  

Generally, persons in Nigeria have fundamental human rights. The interactions of the fundamental human rights have secured the operation of businesses like Twitter, in Nigeria. However, most fundamental human rights are not absolute, since there are constitutional procedures for them to be ‘lawfully violated” by the governments in Nigeria. “Does The President/Governors Have Powers To Lockdown Any Part Of Nigeria Or Restrict Human Rights?”.

The recent ban of Twitter and the threat to prosecute users of Twitter in Nigeria calls for the re-examination of the actions of Nigerian government viz-a-viz the fundamental human rights in Nigeria. The government of Nigeria has rather unlawfully and unconstitutionally banned Twitter and the users of Twitter and as such continues to violate the fundamental human rights of millions of users of Twitter in Nigeria. Hence, the judicial arm of governments in Nigeria is expected to be called in by Nigerians and activists in the search for legal remedies in the Nigerian courts. However, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the ECOWAS Court of Justice (sitting in Abuja) are better alternatives to the striking and often very slow Nigerian courts in the quest for justice for Nigerians. An Alternative to Courts for Human Rights Cases.

My authorities, are:

  1. Sections 14, 20, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 305, 318 and 319 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
  2. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights.
  3. Sections 6, 7, 8 and 22 of the National Human Rights Commission (Amendment) Act 2010.
  4. Sections 1, 2, 5 and 6, the National Human Rights Commission (Amendment) Act 1995.
  5. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (on meaning and nature of fundamental human rights) in the case of RANSOME-KUTI & ORS v. AG FEDERATION & ORS (1985) LPELR-2940(SC)
  6. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (on meaning and nature of fundamental human rights) in the case of AGBAI & ORS v. OKOGBUE (1991) LPELR-225(SC).
  7. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (on when and why fundamental human rights can be restricted/suspended) in the case of DOKUBO-ASARI v. FRN (2007) LPELR-958(SC).
  8. The Supreme Court judgment on “Meaning of Regulation” in the case of AG LAGOS STATE v. EKO HOTELS LTD & ANOR (2006) LPELR-3161(SC)
  9. The Court of Appeal judgment on “Meaning of Executive Order/Regulation” in the case of ELEPHANT GROUP PLC v. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER & ANOR (2018) LPELR-45528(CA)
  10. The Supreme Court judgment on “Policy Documents/Guidance” in the case of COMPTROLLER GENERAL OF CUSTOMS & ORS v. COMPTROLLER ABDULLAHI B. GUSAU (2017) LPELR-42081(SC).
  11. The Supreme Court judgment on “Policy Documents/Guidance” in the case of UNION BANK OF NIGERIA PLC & ANOR. v. IFEOLUWA NIG. ENTERPRISES LTD (2007) 7 NWLR (Pt.1032) 71 at 84.
  12. Nimi Princewill and Stephanie Busari, “Nigeria bans Twitter after company deletes President Buhari’s tweet” (CNN, 5 June 2021) <https://edition.cnn.com/2021/06/04/africa/nigeria-suspends-twitter-operations-intl/index.html> accessed 7 June 2021
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  81. Onyekachi Umah, “Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting/Elongation, Breasts Ironing And Forced Marriage Are Now Criminal Offences In Nigeria” (Daily Law Tips [443]) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-elongation-breasts-ironing-and-forced-marriage-are-now-criminal-offences-in-nigeria-daily-law-tips-tip-443-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarb-uk/ > accessed 20 April 2021
  82. Onyekachi Umah, “Harmful Widowhood Practices (Traditions) Are Illegal In Nigeria” (Daily Law Tips [Tip 589]) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/harmful-widowhood-practices-traditions-are-illegal-in-nigeria-daily-law-tips-tip-589-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarbuk/ > accessed 20 April 2021
  83. Onyekachi Umah, “Forceful Isolation/Separation Of Family Members/Friends Is Now An Offence In Nigeria” (Daily Law Tips [356]) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/forceful-isolation-separation-of-family-members-friends-is-now-an-offence-in-nigeria-daily-law-tips-tip-356-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarb-uk/ > accessed 120 April 2021
  84. Onyekachi Umah, “Abolished Anti-Women Custom of Onitsha People of Anambra State, Nigeria” (LearnNigerianLaws, 10 March 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/abolished-anti-women-custom-of-onitsha-people-of-anambra-state-nigeria-daily-law-tips-tip-522-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarbuk/ > accessed 20 April 2021
  85. Onyekachi Umah, “Citizen By Marriage Is Discriminatory and Against Nigerian Women”, (com, 14 September 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/citizen-by-marriage-is-discriminatory-and-against-nigerian-women/ > accessed 20 April 2021
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  87. Onyekachi Umah, “Can a Married Woman Inherit Her Parents Property?” (com, 27 March 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/can-a-married-woman-inherit-her-parents-property-daily-law-tips-tip-535-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarbuk/ > accessed 20 April 2021
  88. Onyekachi Umah, “Approval For Marriage Of Female Officers/Staff Is Unconstitutional and Discriminatory”, (com, 23 September 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/approval-for-marriage-of-female-officers-staff-is-unconstitutional-and-discriminatory/ > accessed 20 April 2021
  89. Onyekachi Umah, “It Is An Offence To Chase Out Wife/Husband From A Home Or Even Attempt To Do So” (com, 17 May 2019) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/it-is-an-offence-to-chase-out-wife-husband-from-a-home-or-even-attempt-to-do-so-daily-law-tips-tip-333-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarb-uk/> accessed 20 April 2021
  90. Onyekachi Umah, “Examining Brutalization of House Helps in Nigeria. (An Exposé on Anti-Cruel Labour Laws in Nigeria)” (com, 3 August 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/examining-brutalization-of-house-helps-in-nigeria-an-expose-on-anti-cruel-labour-laws-in-nigeria-daily-law-tips-tip-623-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-ll-m-aciarbuk/> accessed 27 April 2021
  91. Onyekachi Umah, “11 States That Do Not Protect Children In Nigeria” (com, 31 May 2021) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/11-states-that-do-not-protect-children-in-nigeria/> accessed 31 May 2021

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