The ECOWAS Court of Justice, today held that the Federal Government of Nigeria ban on Twitter is unlawful.
The Federal Government of Nigeria suspended Twitter operations in Nigeria on June 4, 2021 two days after a controversial tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari was deleted by Twitter.
Nigeria in July 2021 banned Twitter after a tweet by Buhari was deleted.
The tweet referenced the civil war experience where millions of people from the southeast were killed.
Nigeria thereafter declared the use of Twitter illegal and threatened to arrest and prosecute anyone using Twitter. The government also ordered all broadcast stations to suspend the patronage of Twitter.
Following the ban, One Love Foundation, led by its Chairman Chief Patrick Eholor had approached the ECOWAS Court of Justice, Abuja in Suit No ECW/CCJ/APP/24/21, with the argument that thr ban was a violation of the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, speech and association of the Nigerian people. 176 other groups and persons also consolidated the suit action.
In today’s judgment, the ECOWAS court declared that it has the jurisdiction to hear the case and that the case was therefore admissible.
The court also held that the act of suspending the operation of Twitter is unlawful 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 both of which Nigeria is a state party.
“The Buhari administration in suspending the operations of Twitter violates the rights of Nigerians to the enjoyment of freedom of expression, access to information and the media, as well as the right to fair hearing,” the court ruled.
The court also ordered the Buhari administration to take necessary steps to align its policies and other measures to give effect to the rights and freedoms, and to guarantee a non-repetition of the unlawful ban of Twitter.
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.