“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.”Section 36 (12) 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic Nigeria (as amended)
These are times of uncertainty in Nigeria and no one can conveniently tell when it won’t come to an end.
With the recent ban on open grazing by Southern Governors, many Nigerians (especially in that part of the country) must have thought that the callous actions of herders would be brought to a considerable low. However, the event of Sunday at Igangan community in Ibarapa Local Government Area of Oyo where defenseless citizens were gruesomely murdered by suspected herders is proof that there is so much work to be done.
Multiple reports confirm that the gunmen who came in over 20 motorcycles severely hacked and killed over 15 persons, set houses, a petrol station and the king’s palace ablaze. This worrisome report is coming exactly one week after the brazen kidnap of close to 200 students (aged aged six to 18) from an Islamic school in Niger State. Guess what – They are yet to be released.
One would think that such news should be thick enough to worry any government that has the welfare of citizens at heart. The reverse is sadly the case. Nigeria’s Federal Government would rather reorder its priorities place gagging the press and criminalising free speech among citizens as we have seen with Friday’s indefinite suspension slammed on microblogging giants, Twitter in the country.
All debates on the legality of that action has since been ended, as it is clear that a social media ban under any guise has no enabling law in the country at current.
READ ALSO: Language 121: Between President Buhari and Twitter on the alleged ‘genocidal’ video
And so, faced with issues as citizens bypassing service providers to access the platform through the use of virtual private networks, the government appears handicapped in enforcing the ‘ban,’ leading it to roll out its fear mongering machinery. The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, kicked off the ride on Saturday, when he ordered the prosecution of Nigerians defying the government’s ban on Twitter, but could not state the specific law that is being violated.
Section 36(12) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic Nigeria prohibits the conviction of anyone based on any law not prescribed in any written law, but our dear AGF despite been a minister in the temple of justice probably thinks that clause was inserted as joke material.
Most saddening is the fact that not even an executive order has been passed to this effect. And then, the Communications Ministry would go ahead to instruct telecommunication service providers to disconnect Nigerians from the service without any legal backing.
Not satisfied, the Information Minister through the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) on Sunday, directed all broadcast houses in the country to “de-install their Twitter handles and desist from using Twitter as a source (UGC) of information gathering for News and programmes Presentation especially phone-in.”
The NBC’s argument is that “Section 3.11.2 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code provides that “the broadcaster shall ensure that law enforcement is upheld at all times in a matter depicting that law and order are socially superior to or more desirable than crime and anarchy.”
It would shamefully add a note in the letter to the media houses “that it will be unpatriotic for any broadcaster in Nigeria to continue to patronise the suspended Twitter as a source of its information therefore strict compliance is enjoined.” But what could be more unpatriotic that an AGF sitting comfortably as the Chief Law Officer of the federation while the entire courts in the land; the arbiter of justice for the common man remain shut as a result of a strike for as long as two months now.
No one needs a sorcerer at this juncture to point out that the government is employing desperate measures to see its unconstitutional actions take effect. This ‘movie’ been produced by the Presidency does not hold any good for the image of the country and even frustrates the economic life of millions of its citizens.
Rather than continue to grandstand with words like “Twitter’s operations in Nigeria will be restored only if the platform can be used responsibly” as expressed by Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama on Monday; government should pre-occupy itself with tackling the root causes of frustration in the country.
That list is endless but it can start from making sure all criminals face the wrath of the law (no matter their ethnic group they belong), urgently restructure the Nigerian federation to make room for local policing and reorient the President about timely communication to showing up where he is most needed.
Until then, ‘Desperado lomo’ #KeepItOn and #KeepItMoving ‘Desperado’,
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Journalist, Political Analyst and Satirist with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.