The Community Court of Justice, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has issued an order restraining President Muhammadu Buhari or any member of his administration from prosecuting any Nigerian for using Twitter.
The ruling followed the suit filed against the government by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 176 concerned Nigerians over the development.
The plaintiffs urged the court to grant “a declaration that the action of the defendant and its agents in suspending the operation of Twitter or any other social media and microblogging application without an order of a competent court of jurisdiction is unlawful, inconsistent and incompatible with Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“A declaration that the act of the defendant in mandating its agent to commence and continue to regulate the social media in Nigeria amounts to restriction and censorship, thus violating Nigeria’s obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“A declaration that the act of the defendant and its agents in suspending the operation of Twitter or any other social media and microblogging application in Nigeria without any offence known to law is incompatible with Nigeria’s international human rights obligations, and are therefore null and void to the extent of their inconsistency and incompatibility”.
On June 4, Lai Mohammed, minister of information, had announced the “indefinite” suspension of Twitter’s operations in the country.
According to the minister, the social media platform was engaging in activities that “undermine Nigeria’s existence”.
Abubakar Malami, the attorney general of the federation, had subsequently ordered the prosecution of anyone who violated the ban.
In its ruling on Tuesday, the ECOWAS court granted an interim injunction “restraining the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and its agents from unlawfully imposing sanctions or doing anything whatsoever to harass, intimidate, arrest or prosecute Twitter and/or any other social media service provider(s), media houses, radio and television broadcast stations, the Plaintiffs and other Nigerians who are Twitter users, pending the hearing and determination of this suit”.