The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has stated that it will defend any Nigerian arrested and undergoing prosecution by the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, for still using Twitter after it was banned in the country, Page 36 learnt.
The NBA vowed that it is set for a legal battle with the President Muhammadu Buhari Federal Government over its decision to suspend the operations of the micro-blogging social media giant.
The NBA National Publicity Secretary, Dr. Rapulu Nduka, in a telephone interview with The Punch, in Lagos, stated that a 13-member Committee has been set up to handle matters relating to the suit the Association plans to file against the Federal Government.
The AGF had last Saturday, directed the Director of Public Prosecution in his Ministry to begin the process of prosecuting violators of the suspension order.
However, before AGF Malami gave the directive, the NBA had on Friday, threatened to institute a suit against the Federal Government, over the suspension of Twitter’s operation on the country.
The NBA President, Olumide Akpata, in a statement made via the social media platform, said that the government lacks the constitutional authority to back its decision.
He stated that if the suspension is 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, stated that the suit was delayed by the strike by Judiciary workers., which has now however been suspended.
He 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.
He added: “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 noted that the court, among others, would determine if the Federal Government has the power to suspend the operations of a company like Twitter, just because President Muhammadu Buhari was hurt by its policies.
Nduka said: “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 in order to take actions.”
“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 so that judicial principles can be made for future purposes.
“We do not only have the present administration in mind, some of these issues may 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 which is 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.”