_ BY CHRISPODIAH EMMANUEL.
Sequel to the indefinite ban of Twitter operations in Nigeria by the Federal Government on Friday, 4th June, 2021, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Alhaji Abubakar Malami made a pronouncement which threatened a legal action against anyone found to use the social media network, Twitter in Nigeria.
It must be noted that Nigerian operate a constitutional democracy based on the rule of law. And as such, everything must be done according to law; government must be conducted within the framework of recognised rules and principles. Where the rule of law reigns, political expediency ought to be sacrificed on the altar of the rule of law so as to guarantee the continued existence of democratic institutions fashioned to promote social values of liberty, orderly conduct and development.
Without prejudice, it is imperative to note that section 36 (12) of the constitution provides that ” Subject as otherwise provided by this Constitution, a person shall not be convicted of a criminal offence unless that offence is defined and the penalty therefor is prescribed in a written law, and in this subsection, a written law refers to an Act of the National Assembly or a Law of a State, any subsidiary legislation or instrument under the provisions of a law.”
In the case of Aoko Vs. Fagbemi (1961) 1 All NLR 400, the court held to the effect that, no one shall be prosecuted for an offence not known to Law. Likewise, the case of A.G.F. Vs. Isong (1986) 1QLRN 75 is also quite pungent on this.
I have read the contents of our various penal laws and I find no constitutional or legal authority to support the peremptory action of the Federal Government to ban the operations of Twitter in Nigeria.
The ministry of Information and Culture does not make laws, it give directives. Under the Nigerian constitutional jurisprudence, a executive governor or president has no power to restrict the fundamental right of any citizen. If the President will do that, it must be done by any Law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society. If the president or a governor makes an executive order simpliciter without any enabling law, it is not a law because it is just a directive on how the executive branch would approach an issue. In the absence of an enabling law, every citizen is entitled to walk freely, associate with others, practice his religion, express himself freely, Etcetera.
In the case of FAITH OKAFOR V. GOVERNOR OF LAGOS STATE & ANOR. (2016) LPELR-41066 (CA), the Governor of Lagos State issued a directive that every person must stay at home and away from the streets of Lagos State on every last Saturday of the month save those so authorized to be on the street. Faith Okafor was arrested on alleged violation of the directive, consequently she was charged to court and convicted. On appeal, the conviction was set aside on the ground that Faith Okafor, could not be arrested or prosecuted for disobeying or flouting the Executive Order or Directive of the Governor of Lagos State but could only be arrested and prosecuted for an offence that is prescribed in a written law. ”
BIOBELE ABRAHAM GEORGEWILL, J.C.A. In his concurring judgment held as follows:
” … that democracy thrives more on obeying and promoting the rule of law rather than the whims and caprices of the leaders against the lead. I find the conduct of the Respondent in not only persecuting the Appellant, yes that is what in my view it amounts to when a free Citizen of this great Country such as Citizen Faith Okafor, is put through the rigours of criminal process for an offence not prescribed in any written law but merely on the directive of the Governor of the Lagos State. An action which if allowed to thrive in a democracy such as ours could confer on such office holders infinite, absolute and autocratic powers contrary to the clear provisions of the Constitution of the land, to which both the leaders and the led are subject. I refuse to allow such authocratic, absolute and infinite powers to fester upon our nascent democracy.”
Therefore, whatever directive(s) the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Alhaji Abubakar Malami, issued for the prosecution of violators of the ban of twitter blog in Nigeria, it runs contrary to the Letters and the spirit of the Constitution and same anachronistic in a democractic society where rule of law ought to be the guiding compass.
Lyon Of The Tribe, King Of The Jungle.