Twitter Ban: Nigerians left to fate, as lawmakers proceed on two weeks holiday


The ban on Twitter by the federal government appears not to have an end in sight after the members of the National Assembly, who have the powers to check the executives have decided to go on a 2-week holiday amid the ban.

The hope of Nigerians that the National Assembly would prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari to reverse the controversial Twitter ban was dashed on Tuesday, as the lawmakers could only biker among themselves.

Nigerians who depend on the platform for daily transactions have seen their hope dashed.

Nimot Shekoni, who uses the platform to market her wares, lamented the impact of the ban to newsmen.

“Yes, we can use VPN, but what makes Twitter Nigeria special is the large population, since the ban, it’s not everyone that has the time to download VPN. Some are even concerned about the privacy of data on their phone, and with these free VPN, people are sceptical,” she said.

“I was really hoping our lawmakers would help lift the ban, guess I was wrong.”

Hassan Nurudeen, who works in the development space, said, “Generally, as someone who is on the move almost every morning, I catch my daily news on Twitter and this has been made a bit difficult since the ban.

“People don’t have the luxury of time to listen to the the radio or watch TV, in no time, even media houses will start seeing drop in clicks they get.”

It would be recalled that the federal government had announced the ban of the microblogging site, Twitter, a few days after the platform had deleted a tweet from the president’s handle. According to Twitter, the tweet was pulled down because the content was offensive.

On Tuesday, when the House of Representatives resumed from the two weeks break, there were strong indications that the lawmakers from the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), would challenge the ban through motion or protest.

Following the ban, the PDP caucus of the House had issued a statement condemning the ban, while the PDP members, through their leader, Kingsley Chinda, even threatened to drag the government to court over the ban.

These statements built the expectation that lawmakers will help to restore the ban. At the plenary on Tuesday, the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila perhaps, pre-empted the opposition, read a prepared speech, in the speech, he mandated joint committees to summon the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed.

Jude Feranmi, the convener of Raising New Voice said a pronouncement by the lawmakers would have gone a long way to address the issue, but the current National Assembly under Sen Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila lacks the political will to challenge the executive.

“The line between the executive and the legislature is currently very thin,” adding that, “the National Assembly has a duty — a simple pronouncement will do, but there is a political angle on if the current Assembly has what it takes.

“If the pronouncement is made, and there is an impasse between the two, then there is where the judiciary comes in to interpret the law for the two arms of government.”

According to Mr Gbajabimaila, the committee is to investigate the ban on Twitter, and report to the House in 10 days, the same lawmakers adjourned for 2-weeks on Thursday, to resume on the 29th of June.

The move by the speaker prevented the opposition from presenting a motion that could come with radical prayers and even allow the opposition to debate the entire process on the floor of the House.

More importantly, the move by the Speaker allowed the government more time to continue the ban. Hon Chinda subsequently attempted to move for the ban to suspend the ban until the committees conclude the investigation, however, he was shut down by the Speaker.

Lawmakers using VPN

Lawmakers in the minority caucus in the National Assembly declared the willingness to continue to use Twitter, a statement in defiance to the threat of prosecution by the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami. The AGF had said that the government will prosecute anyone bypassing the law.

A legal practitioner, Pelumi Olajengesi, said the opposition party can consider going to court, however, for a case to have proper weight, there must be a consensus among the entire members of the National Assembly.

“It is within their right to approach the court, but they will be doing that like ordinary Nigerians. For the National Assembly to approach the court for interpretation of the law, there must be a consensus. I believe that the member of the opposition can approach the court like SERAP and others are doing,” he said.

He added that, ” Legally speaking, it is not intrinsic within the right of the National Assembly to do or undo the banning of Twitter or any organization in Nigeria. But they can sanction characters.

Interestingly, it is not only PDP lawmakers that are using VPN to access the platform, Akin Alabi, a member of the APC in the House has been accessing Twitter since the announcement of the ban.

The lawmaker still tweeted with his handle, @Akinalabi on the 11th of June.

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