Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba
• How do police arrest prominent Nigerians because they are using Twitter? – Force
The General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, and the General Superintendent of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry, Pastor William Kumuyi, have defied the Federal Government’s order directing Nigerians to stop using Twitter.
While Adeboye said his tweets were covered by Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Kumuyi said his tweets were targeted at a global audience.
The clerics said these as the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada and Republic of Ireland, after a meeting with the Federal Government on Monday insisted on their position that the suspension of Twitter by the Nigerian government was a violation of the freedom of expression.
Also, there were indications on Monday that the police were confused on how to handle Nigerians who were still using Twitter despite the Federal Government’s suspension of its operations in Nigeria.
Earlier on Monday, the RCCG General Overseer, Adeboye, justified his use of Twitter. In a tweet, he stated his church was present across the world.
He wrote, “The Redeemed Christian Church of God is domiciled in more than 170 nations and territories. The tweets here are in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Kumuyi, while also tweeting, said, “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.”
The churches of the two revered Christian leaders also copied their tweets.
Checks by our correspondents showed that the Senior Pastor of the Daystar Christian Centre, Lagos, Nigeria, Pastor Sam Adeyemi; the General Overseer of Omega Fire Ministries International, Apostle Johnson Suleiman, have also continued to tweet despite the ban.
Adeyemi retweeted around 2pm on Monday an event posted by Horasis @HorasisOrg, where he was scheduled to be speaking.
Suleiman, on his part, has been consistently tweeting and retweeting posts and events.His last two posts on Monday were birthday greetings of a junior pastor and his daughter, respectively.
The Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, a staunch supporter of the present regime, also tweeted on Sunday despite the ban.
The Federal Government last Friday suspended Twitter barely two days after the social media platform deleted a tweet by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), which many Nigerians believed was repugnant.
The Buhari regime subsequently came under fire from several rights groups across the world for stifling free speech.
Amidst the public outcry and criticism that followed the government’s decision, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, 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.
Despite the ban, however, many Nigerians have been using Virtual Private Networks to access Twitter, a move which has further infuriated the government.
Multiple sources in the police headquarters in Abuja on Monday told our correspondents that the police authorities were in a dilemma on how to enforce Malami’s directive.
One of the sources, who is a senior police officer, said, “Honestly, it is not something the police authorities will want to dabble into. Do you expect the police to begin to arrest these prominent Nigerians who you have mentioned because they are using Twitter?
“You know that policemen are already the ‘whipping boys’ of the Nigerian society always. Do you expect us to add this to our burden?”
Another police officer confided in one of our correspondents that the police authorities were not favourably disposed to being involved in the enforcement of the suspension, saying the Office of the AGF would do so.
When reminded that before the Office of the AGF could prosecute, the police would have to first arrest the suspects, the source said, “I am not aware of any plan to arrest anybody.
“In any case, it is not the police alone that can arrest offenders. For instance, are officials of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps not empowered to arrest?”
The Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, a Commissioner of Police, did not take his calls when The PUNCH made several attempts to speak with him on Monday.
He has yet to return the calls or respond to the text message sent to him on the matter as of the time of filing this report.
Malami’s spokesman, Umar Gwandu, also did not respond to enquiries on the matter on Monday.