A lecturer of Law at the famous University of Uyo, Nigeria, Dr Ekokoi Solomon has backed President Muhammadu Buhari over his temporary suspension of Twitter operation in Nigeria. Ekokoi said though there may be procedural breach in the action of the President which he thinks is what Lawyers should be discussing, he submitted that the motivation in the Presidents decision to ban the media platform cannot be controverted.
Recall that President Buhari was bared from Twitter during the week purportedly for making comments that breached Twitter codes. Buhari after a security meeting had said that those promoting secessionist agenda in the South East were too young to remember the devastations of the Nigeria Civil war and thus wanting to repeat it. Buhari who acknowledged the agitations of IPOD, a group championing Nigeria’s breakup, said having passed their message, there was no need further taking the nation hostage thus promising to deal with the agitators “in the language they understand”. The comment which many considered appropriate in the circumstance, however generated uproar in some quarters with Twitter deleting the President’s account.
A reaction by Nigeria’s Minister of Information Mr Lai Muhamed shortly after Twitter deleted the account maintained that Twitter’s motive in deleting President Buhari’s account was suspect. The minister raised the point that Twitter had given unfettered access to Namdi Kanu who jumped bail in Nigeria and fled to UK to launch attacks on Nigeria with inciting comments that has led to IPOD members burning down Police stations, carting away arms and killing security operatives of recent in the country. He said such action was a threat to the peace and stability of the country. The action was followed with a ban on Twitter yesterday.
Bar Ekokoi Solomon, author of the law book called Nigeria’s Sovereign Wealth Funds, while reacting to the development in a post he made on his Facebook page Saturday evening said Section 5 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria gives President Buhari the powers to act in the manner he did. Such powers are not available to a United States President, he said invariably referring to those who have punctured Mr Buhari on grounds that Twitter deleted President Donald Trump’s account last year without President Trump banning the platform. He urged Lawyers to discuss the matter from points of law to guide the general public who may look up to them for understanding of the situation.
He said: “On the Temporary Suspension of Twitter’s Operations in Nigeria
“I have listened to, and read, several comments on the decision of the Nigerian federal government to temporarily suspend the operation of Twitter in Nigeria. In the main, they have been ridden with emotions. The comments from non-lawyers may be excused. However, it is unacceptable for lawyers to make comments that are not based on law. This is because society looks up to lawyers to educate them on issues based on the position of the law and not on their emotions.
“It is true that the decision of the federal government to temporarily suspend the operations of Twitter in Nigeria will have some negative economic impact on the country. It may even be that the procedure adopted by the government is faulty, which I believe is what lawyers should be discussing. These are germane issues. But the motivation behind the suspension cannot be controverted, especially as the federal government has bases its decision on the integrity and sovereignty of Nigeria.
“Many comments on the temporary suspension have compared the issues at stake with what happened some months ago in the United States (US). We must stop comparing the Nigerian Constitution and laws with those of the US. The Nigerian legal system and that of the US are not the same. There may be some similarities but they are not the same. So, when lawyers make the argument that Twitter and Facebook banned Donald Trump and nothing happened, they are making an uninformed argument not based on the law of the US. They must know this: the executive powers of the Nigerian President is wider and those of the US President.
“For clarity, section 5 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN) 1999 vests in the president the executive powers of the Federation of Nigeria. It provides that the president shall exercise executive powers as provided under the CFRN 1999, laws enacted by the National Assembly and any other matter for which the National Assembly has powers to legislate. These are wide powers vested in the Nigerian President which the US President does not have.
“I am not holding brief for the federal government, neither am I justifying the temporary suspension of Twitter’s operations in Nigeria. Nevertheless, we must address issues based on the law and not sentiments and emotions.”