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Thursday, July 14, 2022

ECOWAS court says FG erred in banning Twitter, describes it as unlawful, warns against repetition - ITREALMS

ITREALMS ... making leadership SENSE with digital news!

The court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has proclaimed the ban on Twitter in Nigeria led by General Muhammadu Buhari, retired, as unlawful, reports 
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According to the deputy director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) Kolawole Oluwadare, the court also warned the Nigerian government led by General Buhari not to repeat such a ban.

ITREALMS recalls that Nigeria had in July 2021 banned Twitter after a tweet by Buhari termed as hate speech was deleted.

The tweet referenced the civil war experience which affected millions of people from the southeast suffered untold hardship including death.

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With the ban, Buhari-led Federal Government had declared the use of Twitter illegal and threatened to arrest and prosecute anyone using Twitter in the country with an order to all broadcasting entities to suspend the Twitter patronage.

In a judgment today, July 14, 2022, the ECOWAS court of justice asserted that it has the jurisdiction to hear the case and that the case was therefore admissible, following the case brought before it by a set of non-governmental organisations led by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).

Equally, the court held that the act of suspending the operation of Twitter is unlawful and inconsistent with the provisions of Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights both of which Nigeria is a state party.

“The Buhari administration in suspending the operations of Twitter violates the rights of SERAP and 176 concerned Nigerians to the enjoyment of freedom of expression, access to information and the media, as well as the right to fair hearing,” the court ruled.

In addition, the court ordered the Buhari led-administration to take necessary steps to align its policies and other measures to give effect to the rights and freedoms, and to guarantee a non-repetition of the unlawful ban of Twitter.

Further, the Court ordered the Buhari’s Federal Government to bear the costs of the proceedings and directed the Deputy Chief Registrar to assess the costs accordingly.

Reacting on the judgment, SERAP lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN said, “We commend the ECOWAS Court for the landmark judgment in the case of SERAP versus Federal Republic of Nigeria in which the Judges unanimously upheld the human rights of community citizens to freedom of expression, and access to information. 

Although, he noted that the Court had granted an interim order of injunction last year which restrained the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, from prosecuting Nigerians who defied the Twitter ban, SERAP deserves special commendation for pursuing the matter to a logical conclusion.

“Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and the full enjoyment of this right is central to achieving individual freedom and to developing democracy. It is not only the cornerstone of democracy, but indispensable to a thriving civil society.

“With the latest decision of the Court to declare the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria illegal it is hoped that the Heads of State and Governments of the member states of the Economic Community of West African States will henceforth respect and uphold the human right of community to freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.”

Remmy Nweke/DoP

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