ECOWAS Commission in Abuja, FCT

ECOWAS Court restricts Nigeria from imposing sanctions on Twitter, others

*The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice, in Abuja, rules that interference with Twitter is a violation of human rights, and the Nigerian Government must take immediate steps to implement the order

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Following the hearing of arguments from parties in a suit filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 176 concerned Nigerians, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice in Abuja, FCT, has restrained the Federal Government of Nigeria from imposing sanctions or harassing, intimidating, arresting, or prosecuting Twitter and other global technology giants in the country.

ConsumerConnect gathered the ECOWAS Court gave the restraining order after hearing arguments from parties in a suit filed by SERAP and 176 other concerned Nigerian consumers.

President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR

The applicants’ suit reads in part: “If this application is not urgently granted, the Federal Government will continue to arbitrarily suspend Twitter and threaten to impose criminal and other sanctions on Nigerians, telecommunication companies, media houses, broadcast stations, and other people using Twitter in Nigeria, the perpetual order sought in this suit might be rendered nugatory.

“The suspension of Twitter is aimed at intimidating and stopping Nigerians from using Twitter and other social media platforms to assess government policies, expose corruption, and criticise acts of official impunity by the agents of the Federal Government.”

The Court has equally constrained the government from sanctioning any other social media service providers and media houses, pending the hearing and determination of a suit challenging the government’s suspension of Twitter operations in the country, report said.

Mr. Femi Falana, human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), represented the plaintiffs, whereas Maimuna Shiru, a legal practitioner, represented the government in the suit.

The applicants in the suit apparently contended that the suspension of Twitter by the Federal Government, and subsequent criminalisation of Nigerians and others using the social media platform has escalated repression of human rights and unlawfully restricted the rights of citizens and others to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom in the country, according to report.

According to the ECOWAS Court, interference with Twitter is a violation of human rights and the Nigerian government must take immediate steps to implement the order.

The regional organisation’s Court of Justice also emphasised the need to hear the matter as soon as possible and adjourned until July 6, 2021, for the hearing of the substantive suit.

Recall the legal action is sequel to the suspension of Twitter Friday, June 4, 2021, by the Federal Government after the microblogging site and leading social media platform had deleted President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet from the platform

Subsequently, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) ordered television and radio stations in Nigeria also to suspend the patronage of Twitter services immediately.

The plaintiffs, in the suit marked ECW/CCJ/APP/23/21, however, sought an order of interim injunction restraining the Federal Government from implementing its suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, and subjecting anyone, including media houses and broadcast stations using Twitter in Nigeria to harassment, intimidation, arrest, and criminal prosecution, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.

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