Prominent Christian leaders are still using the Twitter platform despite the federal government’s suspension of the micro-blogging and social media site.
Among those still tweeting included 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 Daystar Christian Centre, Lagos, Nigeria, Pastor Sam Adeyemi and the general overseer of Omega Fire Ministries International, Apostle Johnson Suleiman.
Adeboye had in a tweet on Monday, said his church is present in over 170 countries, adding that tweeting is in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“The Redeemed Christian Church of God is domiciled in more than 170 Nations & Territories. The tweets here are in accordance to Article 19 of the UN universal declaration of Human Rights,” he said.
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Similarly, Kumuyi had tweeted that his church has branches across over 100 countries and five continents, stressing that it can tweet from anywhere in the world.
“In view of the Twitter ban in Nigeria, please note that the content shared on this handle is targeted at a global audience in more than five continents and over 100 nations and we share the content from any of these locations.”
Recall that the federal government had last Friday clamped down on Twitter activities in Nigeria citing the alleged persistent use of the platform to promote actions capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.
Equally, politically-exposed persons including the governor of Oyo State, Mr. Seyi Makinde; his Benue State counterpart, Dr Samuel Ortom; former governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose; former minister of education, Dr Oby Ezekwesili; and the former representative of Kogi West Senatorial District in the 8th national assembly, Mr. Dino Melaye, among others
The ban on Twitter was occasioned by the platform’s deletion of a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari which was seen as a wish to engage in ethnic cleansing of the people of the southeast.
“Many of those misbehaving in certain parts of the country were obviously too young to know the travails and loss of lives that attended the Nigerian civil war. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand. We are going to be very hard sooner than later,” Buhari had tweeted in a reaction to the secessionist agitation in the southeast.
Consequently, the minister of information and culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed on Friday, June 4 announced the “indefinite” suspension on Twitter operations in Nigeria.
The attorney general of the federation and minister of justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami followed up on the action and threatened to prosecute those who flout the government order to deactivate the operations of the micro-blogging and social media platform.
“Malami directed the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation (DPPF) at the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, to swing into action and commence in earnest the process of prosecution of violators of the Federal Government De-activation of operations of Twitter in Nigeria.
“Malami directed the DPPF to liaise with the ministry of communication and digital economy, National Communications Commission (NCC) and other relevant government agencies to ensure the speedy prosecution of offenders without any further delay,” said Malami’s spokesman, Dr Umar Gwandu in a statement.
Later in an interview, Gwandu emphasised that efforts were ongoing to ensure that all those violating the order were prosecuted.
However, he said it was not automatic because the process of arresting and prosecuting them would take time.
“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 threat, the Christian Association of Nigeria warned government against arresting and prosecuting Twitter ban violators, particularly clerics whose tweets are meant for their church members worldwide.
Mr. Adebayo Oladeji, spokesman for the CAN president, Pastor Ayokunle Samuel said the government would compound problems in the country should it arrest or prosecute Christian leaders who, because of the global nature of their congregations, continue to reach out to them via twitter.
“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,” he said.
Also reacting, Apostle Suleiman who took to his verified Instagram handle, @johnson_Suleiman_official, taunted the minister saying: “You want to arrest anyone still using twitter? How did you access them if you are not secretly doing same? A deaf and dumb puts on ear-piece.”
Similarly, Ortom who joined prominent Nigerians who tweeted despite the federal government’s ban 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.”
Meanwhile, Mohammed said Malami will decide whether or not to prosecute Adeboye, Kumuyi as well as the other violators of the Twitter suspension.
The minister stated this during an interview with the BBC News Africa.
When the minister was confronted with the actions of Adeboye and Kumuyi, which violated the suspension order, he said: “The Attorney-General has made it clear that if anybody violates the regulation that such a person will be prosecuted and this is not about any particular person. It is in the realm of the Attorney-General to decide who or who not to prosecute.”
Reacting to the widespread criticisms that greeted the suspension, including the condemnations by the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and Canada for its infringement on the fundamental human rights of Nigerians, Mohammed said there would be no human rights if the country goes on fire.
“It is because there is a country called Nigeria that they have rights at all. If the country goes on fire, and there is insecurity everywhere, then, there will be no rights for anybody,” he said.
When reminded that there is already insecurity in Nigeria, the minister said, “Of course, there is. Are we supposed to use Twitter to increase insecurity?”
The minister alleged that those he described as “agents of destruction” had chosen Twitter as a platform to destabilise the corporate existence of Nigeria.