BREAKING: ECOWAS Restrains FG From Prosecuting Nigerian Twitter Users

 BREAKING: ECOWAS Restrains FG From Prosecuting Nigerian Twitter Users

The ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja on Tuesday 22nd June 2021 held a ruling that restrained the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and its agents from unlawfully imposing sanctions on Nigerians who are still using twitter. This development was disclosed today by SERAP’s deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare.

Recall that the Federal Government of Nigeria had banned twitter in Nigeria and threatened to prosecute those still using the platform after its ban.

The court also restrained the government from 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.

The suit which was filed against the government by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 176 concerned Nigerians had the ruling arguing that,

“the unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, criminalization of Nigerians and other people using Twitter have escalated repression of human rights and unlawfully restricted the rights of Nigerians and other people to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom in the country.”

The court upon hearing arguments from Solicitor to SERAP, Femi Falana SAN, and lawyer to the government Maimuna Shiru, gave this order:

“The court has listened very well to the objection by Nigeria. The court has this to say. Any interference with Twitter is viewed as inference with human rights, and that will violate human rights. Therefore, this court has jurisdiction to hear the case. The court also hereby orders that the application be heard expeditiously. The Nigerian government must take immediate steps to implement the order.”

Reacting to this, Femi Falana, SAN had this to say;  “The intervention of the ECOWAS Court is a timely relief for millions of Nigerians using Twitter who have been threatened with prosecution under the provision of the Penal Code relating to sedition.

“Contrary to the assurance credited to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN that violators of the Twitter would not be prosecuted, the Federal Government filed processes in the ECOWAS Court threatening to prosecute Nigerians using Twitter for violating the suspension under the provisions of the Penal Code relating to sedition.

“It is extremely embarrassing that the Federal Government could threaten to jail Nigerians for sedition, which was annulled by the Court of Appeal in 1983, in the case of Arthur Nwankwo vs The State”.

The substantive suit has been adjourned to 6th July 2021 for hearing of the substantive suit.

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