The restriction placed on Twitter by President Muhammadu Buhari has been ruled as unlawful by the court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Thursday.
In the suit no; ECW/CCJ/APP/26/21, Nigerian, Malcolm Omirhobo, informed the ECOWAS court that the Twitter ban which was announced on June 5, 2021, was a violation of his fundamental rights.
He explained that the restriction, eventually removed on January 13, 2022, limit Nigerians’ freedom of expression and association. Malcolm’s suit was merged with that of Social Economic Rights & Accountability Project (SERAP) and 12 others.
What you need to know about Nigeria’s Twitter ban?
Recall that the Federal Government described Twitter’s presence in Nigeria as a threat to the country’s security, hence, the purpose of the ban.
Although, it was believed that President Buhari had given the directive in response to Twitter’s decision to delete one of his tweet which the platform deemed inappropriate and violates its rule on violence.
The tweet was one of many conveying President Buhari’s message to rising attacks by unknown gunmen in the Southern region of Nigeria. He had cited the bloody civil war as an example of what could befall the attackers – leading to many Nigerians reporting his tweet as containing violence and threat.
What ECOWAS court said about Nigeria’s Twitter ban
After the Ecowas court merged several suits relating to the Twitter ban against the President Buhari-led administration on July 6, 2022, the court on Thursday, sided the plaintiffs, describing the restriction as “unlawful”, giving credence to the criticism that trailed the ban.
The court said, “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.”
Nigerian lawyer and SERAP attorney, Femi Falana, said, after the judgement, “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.”