SERAP, Falana drag Buhari to ECOWAS Court over Twitter ban

By Myke Uzendu, Abuja

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and other 176 concerned Nigerians and
Civil Society Organizations have approached the ECOWAS Court over what they described as “the
unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria” by President Muhammadu Buhari’s government.

The group further moved against criminalizing the continued use of Twitter by Nigerians, describing it as
escalated repression of human rights, rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and media

Following the deletion of Buhari’s tweet, Information Minister, Lai Mohammed last week announced the
ban of Twitter operations.

The government further threatened to arrest and prosecute anyone still using Twitter, while the
National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) ordered all broadcast stations to de-install twitter and desist
from sourcing for news via the social media platform.

The suit marked as No ECW/CCJ/APP/23/21 was filed today before the ECOWAS Community Court of
Justice in Abuja.

SERAP and its co-travelers are seeking “An order of interim injunction restraining the Federal
Government from implementing its suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, and subjecting anyone including
media houses, broadcast stations using Twitter in Nigeria, to harassing, intimidating, arrest and criminal
prosecution, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.”

In the suit filed on behalf of SERAP by Femi Falana (SAN), the plaintiffs contended that if the application
is not urgently granted, federal authorities will continue to arbitrarily suspend Twitter.

They said the Buhari government was on the verge of slamming criminal charges and fines against
telecommunication companies, media houses, broadcast stations and others.

The suit read in part: “The suspension of Twitter is aimed at stopping Nigerians from using Twitter and
other social media platforms to assess government policies, expose corruption, and criticize acts of
official impunity.

“The free communication of information and ideas about public and political issues between citizens
and elected representatives is essential.

“This implies a free press and other media able to comment on public issues without censor or
restraints, and to inform public opinion. The public also has a corresponding right to receive media

“Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and the full enjoyment 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.”

No date has been fixed for hearing as the time of filling this report.

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