Twitter ban violation: CAN warns as AGF vows to prosecute Adeboye, VIP offenders

The Federal Government on Tuesday insisted that all those violating the suspension order it placed on the operations of the micro-blogging and social media platform, Twitter  would be prosecuted.

The Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations to the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Umar  Gwandu,  stated this in an interview with one of our correspondents.

But the Christian Association of Nigeria warned government against arresting and prosecuting  Twitter ban violators, particularly clerics whose tweets were meant for their church members worldwide.

Recall that the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had in statement on Friday by his spokesman, Segun Adeyemi, announced the suspension.

Amidst the public outcry and criticism that followed the government’s decision, the AGF, Abubakar Malami, on Saturday directed the Director of Public Prosecution in his office to begin the process of prosecuting violators of the government’s suspension order.

Many senior lawyers have faulted Malami’s position, saying Nigerians cannot be prosecuted for an offence that is not known to the nation’s law.

Despite the prosecution order, many prominent Nigerians have continued using Twitter openly, daring the police to arrest them and the Office of the AGF to prosecute them.

Among those who have been using the platform despite the suspension order are the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye; the General Superintendent of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry, Pastor William Kumuyi; the Senior Pastor of the Daystar Christian Centre, Lagos, Nigeria, Pastor Sam Adeyemi; the General Overseer of Omega Fire Ministries International, Apostle Johnson Suleiman; Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde; former Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose; former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili; and the representative of Kogi West Senatorial District in the Eight National Assembly, Senator Dino Melaye,  among others.

On Tuesday, the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, joined prominent Nigerians who tweeted despite the Federal Government’s ban.

The governor tweeted, “The ban on Twitter is not only illegal, but it is also an ill-advised move to divert the attention of Nigerians from the FG’s failure to tackle insecurity in parts of the country.

“It amounts to suppression of fundamental human rights and gagging of social media.”

Recall that his Kaduna State counterpart, Nasir El-Rufai, tweeted on Sunday despite the ban.

On Tuesday, one of our correspondents sought to know from the AGF office what the government intended to do to those who had been violating its suspension order.

The correspondent specifically told the AGF spokesman, Gwandu, “Despite the Twitter ban, some prominent Nigerians have been tweeting, thereby violating the ban. They include Pastor E.A. Adeboye and  Governor  El Rufai. Is the FG still going to prosecute them?,” the correspondent asked.

Gwandu, in his response, said  efforts were ongoing to ensure that all those violating the order were  prosecuted.

He, however, said it was not automatic because the process of arresting and prosecuting them would take time.

He said, “The process of arresting and prosecuting offenders takes a while. It is not automatic.

“We are definitely on it to ensure the prosecution of all violators. The hands of all stakeholders are on  deck to ensure that all those violating the Twitter ban are prosecuted.”

Reacting to the AGF spokesman’s insistence, Adebayo Oladeji, the Special Assistant on Media to the President of CAN warned the Federal Government.

He said, “We caution the Federal Government against carrying out its threats against those highly respected leaders. What they did was justified after all they run churches with global outlook and they made it clear in their position. If they (government) carry out the threat, it will only compound  problems in the country.

“Any government policy that suspends the fundamental rights of the citizens is not acceptable to us. The government should rise up to the menace of insecurity facing the country without harassing the innocent and elder statesmen.”

Ironically, the AGF, Malami  on Tuesday logged into Twitter and deactivated his account to show solidarity with the Federal Government which had suspended the social media platform.

It, however, remains unclear how Malami was able to log into his account since the Twitter URL has been suspended by all Internet service providers in the country.

The AGF took to his Facebook page on Tuesday, posting a photo and a caption which read, “My Twitter account deactivated.’

However, Malami’s post received over 1,100 comments about 40 minutes later with many of his Facebook followers asking him how he accessed Twitter without using the Virtual Private Network.

Akintunde Babatunde wrote, “How were you able to deactivate Twitter without the VPN? You should be arrested.”

Shoyombo Adebisi KingDavid wrote, “Can you explain how you did that without first logging in?”

“This is evidence that you logged into Twitter today via the VPN to deactivate your account which is punishable under your unlawful law. Let us see how you will prosecute others without throwing yourself in jail,” Roy Ekwueme wrote.

Another Facebook user, Kazeem Badaru, asked the AGF if Nigerians should throw a party because he had deactivated his Twitter account.

The National Broadcasting Commission had on Monday ordered all television and radio stations to deactivate their Twitter accounts. – Punch.

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