NBA Assembles 13-Member Team For Legal Battle Nigerian Government Over Twitter Ban

 The Nigerian Bar Association is set for a legal battle with the Federal Government over its decision to suspend operations of the micro-blogging and social media platform, Twitter.

The NBA National Publicity Secretary,  Dr. Rapulu Nduka, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents in Lagos, said a 13-member committee had been set up to handle matters relating to the suit the association planned to file against the Federal Government.

Nduka stated this as The  PUNCH on Wednesday learned that the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami; and his counterpart for  Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, would lead talks with Twitter.

The Federal Government has been under fire since Friday when the minister of Information and Culture,  in a statement by his spokesman, Segun Adeyemi, suspended Twitter operations because the platform was undermining the country’s corporate existence.

On Saturday, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN,  directed the Director of Public Prosecution in his ministry to begin the process of prosecuting violators of the suspension order.

But before Malami gave the directive, the NBA  had on Friday threatened to institute a suit against the Federal Government over the suspension of Twitter’s operations.

Its President, Olumide Akpata, in a statement made via the social media platform, said the government lacked constitutional authority to back its decision.

He said if the suspension was not reversed, the NBA would sue the government to protect the country’s democracy.

The NBA National Publicity Secretary, Nduka, in the interview with The PUNCH correspondent, said the suit was delayed by the strike by judiciary workers.

He, however, stated, “A committee has already been set up by the NBA to handle matters related to the intended suit. The members of the committee will do whatever it takes to address the issue.”

According to Nduka, the committee in charge of the suit is the NBA Public Interest Litigation Committee.

On Wednesday, he stated, “The mandate of the committee, among other things, is to actively take steps to reinforce the faith of society in law, bring solutions to societal issues, and most especially, to check the abuse of power.

“The committee is chaired by Dr. Charles Mekwunye, with Dr. Olumide Ayeni (SAN) acting as its co-chairman. Other members of the committee include Dr. Paul Ananaba (SAN), Kunle Edun, Aderemi Oguntoye, Boonyameen Lawal, Solomon Oho, Gloria Ballason, Malachy Odo, Olumide Babalola, Baba Isah, Amaka Ezeno, and Auwal Yau.”

He said the court, among others,  would determine if the Federal Government had the power to suspend the operations of a company like Twitter just because President Muhammadu Buhari was hurt by its policies.

Nduka added,   “I must also confess that from the look of things, the Federal Government is trying to soft-pedal on the situation. We are watching and waiting for the courts to resume to take action.”

The NBA spokesman said the government initially stated that the ban was indefinite, but later claimed it was temporary.

He stated, “Hopefully, the government will retrace its steps and do the right thing. Whichever way it goes, issues like these need to be taken to court to make judicial principles for future purposes.

“We do not only have the present administration in mind, but some of these issues may also arise in another administration and we do not want history to repeat itself.

“The motto of the NBA is ‘promoting the rule of law.’ It is unbelievable that the government has threatened to prosecute any Nigerian caught violating its order. I think the threat may have been made out of anger without recourse to its consequences.

“In the first place, under what law would such Nigerians be prosecuted? Also, what happens to the freedom of expression enshrined in our constitution, a fundamental human right?

“In this light, we vow to protect and defend any Nigerian who will be prosecuted for tweeting, in violation of the Federal Government’s order. In essence, they have not committed any crime and we hope to defend them when the time comes.”

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