Why did the ECOWAS Court declare the Nigerian government’s ban on Twitter illegal?

the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja on Thursday outlawed last year’s suspension of Twitter by Muhammadu Buhari’s government, ordering the government to desist from such an illegal act in the future. The court ruled that suspending Twitter’s operations is illegal 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, to which Nigeria is a state party. . , according to a statement from the Socioeconomic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP). SERAP and 176 concerned Nigerians filed the lawsuit challenging Twitter’s suspension of operations in Nigeria in June last year. The ban came after Twitter removed a tweet from Buhari. The Nigerian government and Twitter officials held talks that led to the suspension being lifted in January this year, ending a ban that lasted about seven months. As the talks unfolded, the Nigerian government clashed with SERAP and 176 others in a legal battle in the ECOWAS Tribunal. SERAP and the other plaintiffs alleged in the lawsuit that Twitter’s ban violated their various rights to freedom of expression and others. The Nigerian government, for its part, urged the court to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the regional court did not have jurisdiction to hear it. But the ECOWAS Court, in its judgment on Thursday, affirmed that it had jurisdiction to hear the lawsuit. “The Buhari administration, by suspending the operations of Twitter, violates the rights of SERAP and 176 Nigerians concerned to the enjoyment of freedom of expression, access to information and media, as well as the right to a fair hearing” , held the court. The court also ordered the Buhari administration to take necessary steps to align its policies and other measures to give effect to rights and freedoms, and to ensure the non-repetition of the illegal Twitter ban. The Court also ordered the Buhari administration to bear the costs of the proceedings and directed the Deputy Chief Registrar to assess the costs accordingly. Costume SERAP and the other 176 concerned Nigerians had a lawsuit marked ECW/CCJ/APP/23/21, they argued that “Twitter suspension is aimed at intimidating and preventing Nigerians from using Twitter and other social media platforms to assess government policies. , expose corruption. , and criticize the acts of official impunity of the agents of the Federal Government”. They argued that “free communication of information and ideas on public and political issues between citizens and elected representatives is essential,” urging the court to declare the government’s action illegal. Drawing the court’s attention to the losses being incurred by businesses in Nigeria as a result of the ban, the plaintiffs said: “The arbitrary action of the Federal Government and its agents has negatively impacted millions of Nigerians conducting business and daily operations. On twitter.” They said Twitter’s suspension was “arbitrary” as “there is currently no law in Nigeria that allows people to be prosecuted simply for peacefully exercising their human rights through Twitter and other social media platforms.” “The implication of the decline in freedom of expression in Nigeria is that the country is today ranked alongside countries hostile to human rights and press freedom such as Afghanistan, Chad, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe and Colombia.” But the Nigerian government argued in February that with the lifting of Twitter’s suspension of operations, the lawsuit had lost its purpose and amounted to an academic exercise. But the court noted that lawyers representing the Nigerian government only filed the motion to dismiss the lawsuit after the lawsuit was adjourned for trial. 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. Background The federal government, on June 4, 2021, announced the suspension of the platform in Nigeria through the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed. The government, through the Federation Attorney General, Abubakar Malami, subsequently threatened to arrest and prosecute anyone using the microblogging site in the country, while the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) called on all broadcasting stations to suspend the sponsorship of Twitter. Justifying its action, the government had insisted that Twitter was using its platform as a channel to spread false news against the corporate existence of Nigeria. After coming under fire for circumventing the federal government’s ban on Twitter, Malami denied threatening to prosecute Nigerians who continue to tweet on the microblogging site. Mr. Malami’s denial came days after he unwittingly exposed himself in a Facebook post showing that he, too, had bypassed the Twitter ban like many other Nigerians. However, he reiterated the government’s position on the ban. “But our position at Twitter is clear: anyone, whether an individual or corporate institution, ‘allowing Twitter’ to circumvent the ban the Nigerian Federal Government has placed on the company will be prosecuted.” Reactions to the Twitter ban The suspension of Twitter by the Nigerian government drew criticism locally and from foreign governments and organizations, including allies of Nigeria. The European Union (EU) and the four countries – the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States of America and the Republic of Ireland – issued a joint statement through their diplomatic representations in Nigeria expressing their disappointment at the Nigerian government’s suspension of rights social media platform The joint statement added to growing condemnation of the Twitter ban and move to impose licensing requirements on other social networks in Nigeria. In their joint statement, the diplomatic missions expressed their support for the human rights of free expression and access to information. According to them, the rights apply both online and offline. Provisional measures Some three weeks after the ban was announced in June last year, the court gave Twitter users a reprieve. The court’s ruling on an interlocutory request issued an interim order restricting “the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and its agents from unlawfully imposing sanctions or doing anything to harass, intimidate, arrest, or prosecute Twitter and/or any other service providers.” social networks”. ), media houses, radio and television broadcast stations, the Plaintiffs and other Nigerian Twitter users, awaiting the hearing and determination of this lawsuit.” Twitter ban lifted After seven months of the ban, the Nigerian government announced in January that it had lifted the restriction on the microblogging site. Before the ban was lifted, the government announced that Twitter had agreed to register as a corporate entity in Nigeria, among other conditions that preceded the reversal of the ban. The Twitter ban, which cost Nigerian companies billions of naira, was condemned by many Nigerians, civic groups and the international community, but the government claimed “many deals had been made” with the ready-to-go social media platform. comply. The government claimed that Twitter had committed to establishing a legal entity in Nigeria during the first quarter of 2022. The legal entity, he said, will be registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). Similarly, he said the social media platform has agreed to appoint a designated country representative to interact with Nigerian authorities. Twitter reportedly agreed to comply with tax obligations applicable to its operations under Nigerian law. The federal government said the company also agreed to give its officials the ability to remove tweets it deems a threat to the country’s security. Twitter wrote on its public policy account that it was delighted with the restoration of its services in Nigeria. While he expressed satisfaction at the restoration of his services in Nigeria, he has yet to comment on the government’s claims. The restriction had pushed Nigerians in the country to access Twitter with the help of a virtual private network (VPN). Following the lifting of the ban, many Nigerians are reacting in different ways, with most attributing the decision to lift the ban to the upcoming general election in 2023 and the government’s intention to use the platform for its campaign. Read More Related News Here Let here it in the comment below if you do have an opinion on this; Why did the ECOWAS Court declare the Nigerian government’s ban on Twitter illegal?