ECOWAS court of Justice sitting in Abuja, has halted moves by the Federal Government to arrest and prosecute Nigerians who are making use of social media platform, Twitter, suspended in the country on June 4.
Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, had earlier threatened to prosecute Nigerians who were using other means to bypass the suspension of Twitter.
Civil Society Organisation, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, and 176 concerned Nigerians, however, instituted a suit before the ECOWAS court, arguing that the unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, criminalisation of Nigerians and other people using Twitter had 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.
SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said in a statement that in a landmark ruling on Tuesday, the ECOWAS court restrained the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and its agents from “unlawfully imposing sanctions or doing anything whatsoever to harass, intimidate, arrest or prosecute Twitter or any other social media service provider, media houses, radio, television broadcast stations, the plaintiffs and other Nigerians who are Twitter users, pending the hearing and determination of this suit.”
The court gave the order after hearing arguments from Solicitor to SERAP, Femi Falana (SAN), and lawyer to the government Maimuna Shiru.
The ECOWAS court further stated, “The court has listened very well to the objection by Nigeria. The court has this to say. Any interference with Twitter is viewed as interference 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.”