Pastors Enoch A. Adeboye and William F. Kumuyi could be arrested and prosecuted over their continuing use of Twitter despite a government ban.
This is according to information and culture minister Lai Mohammed.
The Muhammadu Buhari government banned Twitter after the social media platform deleted a tweet in which the president threatened to unleash violence on separatists. The Buhari regime also accused Twitter of fueling last year’s anti-police-brutality protests which it said could destroy Nigeria’s unity.
Telecoms operators have blocked Twitter but Nigerians use virtual private networks (VPN) and other means to evade the ban.
Adeboye, who leads the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), says he would continue to use Twitter because his right to free speech is protected under international law.
Kumuyi is the founder of Deeper Christian Life Ministries. He says he tweets to a global audience and so cannot delete his Twitter account.
Both pastors helped bring Buhari to power and are notorious for urging Nigerians to pray for, and not criticise, his regime.
Following the pastors’ defiance in the face of the Twitter ban, Mohammed said attorney-general Abubakar Malami has the prerogative to decide who to prosecute for violating the embargo.
“The attorney-general has made it clear that if anyone violates the regulation, that such person will be prosecuted,” Mohammed warned during an interview with BBC Africa Focus on Monday.
“I think it is the right of the attorney-general to decide who to prosecute.”
“The government has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of Twitter in Nigeria because of the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence and the government.
“(The government) also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately commence the process of licencing all social media operations in Nigeria,” he said during.
Meanwhile, Buhari’s spokesperson Garba Shehu said ban was temporary. Foreign affairs minister Geoffrey Onyeama told foreign envoys on Monday that Buhari would lift the ban if Nigerians behaved themselves and used social media responsibly.
Nigerians say Buhari, who once truncated a democratically elected government and seized power as a military ruler, is an unrepentant tyrant.