A court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has declared the ban on Twitter in Nigeria by President Muhammadu Buhari as unlawful.
The court also ordered the Nigerian government led by Buhari not to repeat such, according to deputy director of Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) Kolawole Oluwadare.
Nigeria banned Twitter in June 2021 after a tweet shared by Buhari’s account was deleted.
The ban lasted for 7 months and was lifted in January 2022.
But in the judgment delivered today, July 14, 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 SERAP and 176 concerned 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.
Reacting to the judgment, Femi Falana, SAN SERAP lawyer in the suit said, “We commend the ECOWAS Court for the landmark judgment in the case of SERAP v Federal Republic of Nigeria in which the Judges unanimously upheld the human rights of community citizens to freedom of expression, and access to information. Even though the Court had granted an interim order of injunction last year which restrained the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN from prosecuting Nigerians who defied the Twitter ban, SERAP deserves special commendation for pursuing the matter to a logical conclusion.”