From Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
Constitutional lawyer Dr Kayode Ajulo has criticised the planned prosecution of Twitter users by the federal government, saying that such a move has no basis in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Reacting to a statement credited to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the federation, Mr Ibrahim Malami, that users of Twitter will henceforth be prosecuted, Ajulo urged the federal government to tread softly and be guided by the 1999 constitution.
In a statement he released on Sunday, the legal luminary said no individual or corporate organisation has the right to prosecute any Nigerian for an offence not mentioned in the constitution.
‘Sequel to the temporary ban of Twitter operations in Nigeria by the Federal Government on Friday, 4th June 2021, my attention has been drawn to a directive credited to the Attorney General of the Federation for the prosecution of violators of the ban of the blogging company in Nigeria,’ he said.
‘Without prejudice to the rationale for the ban of the blogging site, it must be noted that the Nigerian democracy is a constitutional democracy based on the rule of law. 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.
‘The constitution of a nation is the fons et origo, not only of the jurisprudence but also of the legal system of the nation. It is the beginning and the end of the legal system. In the Greek language, it is the alpha and the omega and the barometer with which Government actions are measured.
‘Without prejudice to the rationale for the ban of the blogging site in Nigeria, it is imperative to note that the provisions of Section 36(12) of the 1999 Constitution are clear to the effect no one shall be prosecuted for an offence not known to Law.
‘For the sake of emphasis and for the avoidance of doubt, Section 36 (12) provides as follows:
“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, therefore, 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 law.”
‘The cases of Aoko Vs. Fagbemi (1961) 1 All NLR 400; A.G.F. Vs. Isong (1986) 1QLRN 75 are also quite pungent on this.
‘I have carefully spectated the contents of our various penal laws and nowhere is a Citizen of the Country prohibited from receiving or disseminating information which as a right guaranteed under Section 39 of the Constitution.
‘While I am weary to believe that the statement credited to the Honourable Attorney General of Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, is with respect, inchoate as the position of law is clear and unambiguous and whatever directive issued for the prosecution of violators of the ban of Twitter blog in Nigeria runs contrary to the Letters and the spirit of the Constitution and same anachronistic in a democratic society where rule of law ought to be the guiding compass,’ he added.