The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 176 concerned Nigerians have dragged the Federal Government to the ECOWAS court over the unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria.
This was contained in a suit filed on Tuesday, June 8, by the Solicitor to SERAP, Femi Falana SAN, who noted that the Plaintiffs contend that “if this application is not urgently granted, the Federal Government will continue to arbitrarily suspend Twitter and threaten to impose criminal and other sanctions on Nigerians, telecommunication companies, media houses, broadcast stations and other people using Twitter in Nigeria, the perpetual order sought in this suit might be rendered nugatory.”
1st News also learned that the suit was 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 harassment, intimidation, arrest and criminal prosecution, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.”
The government has also threatened to arrest and prosecute anyone using Twitter in the country, while the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has asked all broadcast stations to suspend the patronage of Twitter.
The SERAP suit, read in part: “The suspension of Twitter is aimed at intimidating and stopping Nigerians from using Twitter and also other social media platforms to assess government policies, expose corruption, and criticize acts of official impunity by the agents of the Federal Government.
“Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right; as well as the full enjoyment of this right 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.
“The arbitrary action by the Federal Government and its agents have negatively impacted millions of Nigerians; who carry on their daily businesses and operational activities on Twitter. The suspension has also impeded the freedom of expression of millions of Nigerians; who criticize and influence government policies through the microblogging app.
“The suspension of Twitter is arbitrary, and there is no law in Nigeria today; permitting the prosecution of people simply for peacefully exercising their human rights through Twitter and other social media platforms.
SERAP and the concerned Nigerians are therefore asking the ECOWAS Court of Justice for the following relief amongst others:
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendant; and its agents from unlawfully imposing sanctions and other punishment; including criminal prosecution or doing anything whatsoever to harass Twitter; broadcast stations; Nigerians and other people; and any social media service provider(s), and media houses who are Twitter users.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the interim application and the substantive suit.