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Outrage trails FG’s suspension of Twitter operations

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*Nigeria’s suspension of our operations deeply concerning -Twitter

*NBA threatens lawsuit against FG over action

Tunde Opalana, Doosuur Iwambe, and Ukpono Ukpong, Abuja

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), two Human Rights groups, Concerned Nigerians and Centre for Liberty, and Lawyer and activist, Femi Falana, SAN, among others, on Friday, condemned in strong terms, Federal Government’s suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria.

Recall that the Federal Government on Friday suspended indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria.

The suspension comes after Twitter deleted a controversial post by President Muhammadu Buhari referencing the country’s civil war, and threatening to treat those attacking government buildings “with the language they understand”.

“Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” he wrote on Tuesday.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced the suspension in a statement in Abuja on Friday.

The minister cited the persistent use of the platform for activities capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.

He said the Federal Government has also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in the country.

The statement was signed by Mr. Segun Adeyemi, Special Assistant to the President (Media), office of the Minister.

Reacting, the micro-blogging organisation expressed “deep concern” over the Federal Government’s patriotism has emboldened the Buhari government to ride roughshod on the citizens’ fundamental rights.

In a statement issued in Abuja, the Co-Chairman of the group, Ariyo Dare Atoye, described the Federal Government suspension of Twitter as a step towards stifling the media and human rights, with an ultimate aim of suspending the constitution and declaring martial law.

He said: “The military regime of General Muhammadu Buhari is maturing at full speed.

“Our calmness and display of patriotism has emboldened the regime to ride roughshod on our fundamental rights.

“We are convinced that this is the first of many tyrannical actions that the regime will likely take.

“From Twitter, they will move to Facebook, then Instagram and anything else on the internet. Once they are done with that, they will start going after citizens and causing harm to anyone that criticizes their tyrannical actions.

“Eventually they will suspend the constitution and declare martial law.

They want to subjugate us. How is this different from the goal of Boko Haram?

“Our voices must become one to resist the dictator in power.

Before Buhari’s military regime takes away the only obvious thing we have left — our lives, we must rise and use it to defend our heritage and the future of our little children and the unborn generation. We don’t want another military regime!”.

He, however, called on Nigerians to download a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on Google PlayStore or AppStore, and use it to circumvent the ban.

“In the meantime, we encourage everyone to download a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on Google PlayStore or AppStore, and use it to circumvent the ban.

Also, we encourage everyone to take personal safety seriously at this time. There is no doubt that the regime will seek to compromise the safety of anyone they can make a scapegoat to intimidate everyone else.

“As we prepare for the struggle ahead, we encourage everyone to use the hashtag #BuhariTheDictator. Let’s prove to the dictator that our voices cannot be silenced; or our resolve weakened!

“Everyone is encouraged to brace up for the struggle ahead. General Buhari and his cohorts have declared war on democracy and citizens’ rights in Nigeria. This must not be allowed to stand,” he said.

Also, lawyer and activist, Femi Falana, said the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria by the Federal Government was a “provocative infringement” of Nigerians’ right to freedom of expression including freedom to access information in the country.

“The NBC has been authorised to impose harsh fines on local media houses that embarrass the federal government as a prelude for possible ban.

“The suspension of Twitter may soon be extended to Facebook, Instagram and then BBC, VOA, Aljazeera, SABC and other international media platforms accused of publishing seditious or defamatory information against the government and its officials.

“The indefinite suspension of Twitter is a confirmation of the suspension of Chapter 4 of the Nigerian Constitution.”

Reacting to the development during a telephone interview with Daily Times on Saturday, Ms Vera Ortese, an Abuja based civil servant, and Okoh Emmanuel, an engineer some Nigerians kicked against the suspension, accusing President Muhammadu Buhari government of dictatorship.

Ms Vera Ortese, an Abuja based civil servant, while expressing her disappointment, advised government to channel its energy on providing security for Nigerians.

“I will advise the Federal Government to channel its energy on providing security for Nigerians.

Herdsmen are killing people everywhere. There is no day that you won’t hear about one kidnapping or the other.

“Look at the judiciary, an arm of government, they have been on strike for over two months now and they are not saying anything.

Nigerians are hungry. There is so much hunger in the land. Is it fighting Twitter that should be a priority?” she questioned.

She further accused the Federal Government of having an ulterior motive to further gag and destroy Nigeria.

On his part, Okoh Emmanuel, an engineer, said the Federal Government was clueless.

While stressing that Nigerians is always in the news for the wrong reasons, he expressed shock that the government used the same medium to announce its suspension.

He said: “Meanwhile they used the Twitter handle to announce the suspension of Twitter.

Of all the issues Nigeria is grappling with, they can’t find solutions to; it is to ban Twitter that is now priority.

“It is unfortunate that we are always in the news for the wrong reason”.

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Ihesiulo Grace

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