ECOWAS court rejects Nigerian government’s request to dismiss Twitter ban lawsuit

The Abuja-based ECOWAS Tribunal has rejected the Nigerian government’s request to dismiss a lawsuit challenging last year’s Twitter ban in the country. This despite the lifting of the ban on Twitter in January, seven months after the Nigerian government announced the indefinite suspension of the platform in June 2021. According to a statement from the court information unit on Friday, a three-member court panel that sat on the case set May 10 for final sentencing after rejecting the federal government’s request for dismissal of the case. demand. The presiding judge, Gberi-Be Ouattara, who issued the ruling that dismissed the government’s request, called it unfounded. Two other panel members, Keikura Bangura and Januaria Moreira Costa, agreed. The court noted that the lawyers representing the Nigerian government only filed the request to dismiss the lawsuit after the lawsuit was adjourned for sentencing. He added that the Nigerian government did not provide evidence of the agreement it reached with Twitter management as evidence of the resolution of the issue. The ruling followed a hearing on the application on February 16. Twitter ban, suits Various individuals and organizations, including the Socioeconomic Rights and Responsibility Project (SERAP), had filed different lawsuits against the Nigerian government following the announcement of the indefinite suspension of Twitter operations in the country on June 4, 2021. The ban on Twitter’s operations came two days after the microblogging site removed a controversial tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari. But the Nigerian had insisted that he took action against Twitter, among other reasons, in response to abuse of the platform, which he claimed was a channel for spreading false news against Nigeria’s corporate existence. SERAP, the Media Rights Agenda and eight others; Malcolm Omirhobo; and Patrick Eholor, subsequently filed the lawsuits marked: ECW/CCJ/APP/23/21,ECW/CCJ/APP/29/21,ECW/CCJ/APP/24/21 and ECW/CCJ/APP/26/21, respectively, against Twitter’s ban which they claimed infringed their rights. Subsequently, the ECOWAS Court ordered the consolidation of the claims into one. Ruling on a plaintiffs’ request on June 22, 2021, the court issued an interlocutory order prohibiting the federal government from taking any action against media outlets, organizations, or individuals using Twitter in defiance of the ban on Twitter. awaiting the hearing of the claim. However, the ban continued as the government continued to announce ongoing negotiations with Twitter. After seven months, the government unlocked access to the site in January 2022. ‘Why the lawsuit should be dismissed’ Subsequently, the government filed an application dated January 26, 2022 asking the ECOWAS Court to dismiss the lawsuit against Twitter’s ban. On February 16, the government’s legal team argued the request to dismiss the lawsuit, citing the lifting of the ban on Twitter. Abdullahi Abubakar and Abubakar Nuhu, both deputy state advisers, representing the Nigerian government, said that with the lifting of Twitter’s suspension, the lawsuit had lost its purpose and amounted to an academic exercise. They justified the earlier ban on Twitter, saying the platform was constantly being used for activities capable of undermining Nigeria’s existence and national security. They added that Twitter had reached an agreement promising to abide by the law, which resulted in the ban on Twitter being lifted. They also held that a court decision on the lawsuit would not constitute any value to the applicants as the issue was now devoid of purpose. ‘The plaintiffs oppose the request for dismissal’ The plaintiffs objected to the Nigerian government’s submissions, saying that Twitter’s suspension was not the subject of the lawsuit, but the government’s action that violated their rights. They also told the court that lifting the suspension on Twitter was just one among other sentences being asked of the court. They called on the court to reject the government’s request to dismiss the lawsuit and go ahead with sentencing. advertisements In their lawsuits, the petitioners challenged the Nigerian government’s decision to suspend access to the Twitter platform in Nigeria, claiming that the action constituted a violation of their fundamental rights, including their rights to freedom of expression and the press. They also asked the court to declare the suspension a continuing violation of their fundamental rights. ‘Highlights of government interference’ In the previous hearing on September 29, 2021, two groups that intervened as amici curiae (friends of the court) “offered reflections on state interference in the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, access to information, political participation and socioeconomic rights. in the internet age,” said the court’s information unit on the preliminary proceedings of the case. Presentations were made by Deji Ajare, Nanpon Wuyep and Ms Miriam Orika, representing the two amici curiae comprising three groups: Access Now, gElectronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Open Net Association on the one hand, and Amnesty International on the other. joint orals with the intention of providing useful information. conclusions that could help the Court decide the matter. Another group, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights represented by Mr. Ikechukwu Uzoma, also made a submission following its request to intervene in the matter as amicus curiae. Read More Related News Here Let here it in the comment below if you do have an opinion on this; ECOWAS court rejects Nigerian government’s request to dismiss Twitter ban lawsuit