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Buhari regime ordered us to block Peoples Gazette’s website in Nigeria: MTN



Nigeria’s largest telecommunications network MTN has confirmed blocking its subscribers from accessing Peoples Gazette’s website, saying it was based on written directives from the Buhari administration..

“Please be advised that the network access restriction for peoplesgazettedotcom is pursuant to the directives of the Nigerian Communications Commission (“Commission”) dated 26 January 2021,” the company’s legal advisers said in a letter to The Gazette’s lawyers this week. “As a responsible corporate organization, MTN complied with the said directive in line with both the provisions of section 146 of the Nigeria Communications Act, 2003 and the applicable terms and conditions of MTNN’s operating licenses.”

The telecom giant expressed its sympathies and urged the digital newspaper’s management to keep pressure on the regime to issue a counter directive for the restrictions to be lifted.

“While MTNN empathizes with the owners and management of the Peoples Gazette, it would be unable to unilaterally reverse or lift the restriction except by the directives of the Commission,” the December 1 letter said. “MTNN therefore advise that the management of the Peoples Gazette should engage with the Commission for a resolution of this issue and issuance of the directives to reverse the restriction.”

The admission to The Gazette’s attorneys Inibehe Effiong Chambers in Lagos came 10 months after the paper’s website was tethered from millions of its primary audience in Nigeria. Managing Editor Samuel Ogundipe announced the restrictions on January 27, 2021, saying it began the previous evening on January 26. The MTN management’s confirmation that the directive to block The Gazette’s website came on January 26 indicates prompt compliance with the NCC; without recourse to a fair hearing to the newspaper.

It is also consistent with the conclusion of experts at the Swedish-based Qurium Foundation, whose forensic analysis had confirmed in February that The Gazette’s website was blocked by Nigerian telecom operators.

“This confirmation of NCC’s arbitrary directive to telecom firms only marks the latest of several attempts that top elements of the Buhari regime have made to shut down our organisation for simply committing no other offence but journalism,” Mr Ogundipe said while reacting to the news from The Gazette’s lawyers on Friday morning. “We have continued to keep records as different government agencies and enforcers implement devious plots, including military surveillance and smear campaigns, to rid the country of our public-interest journalism and perpetuate their corrupt and oppressive agenda.”

Mr Ogundipe said the NCC’s framework as an industry regulator prohibits it from depriving Nigerians of their fundamental rights to access information, especially when done without any backing of any court of law.

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