Twitter Ban: Ubani Sues FG

Former 2nd Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Monday Onyekachi Ubani, has taken the Federal Government, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Minister of Information and the Nigerian Communication Commission to court, challenging the ban of Twitter use in Nigeria.

In the originating summons filed at the Federal High Court Lagos, Ubani is seeking for the enforcement of his fundamental rights under ‘1. Section 39(1)(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. Article 9(1)(2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act CAP 10 laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990’.

He furthers seeks: ‘A declaration that the indefinite suspension of Twitter by the 1st Respondent without an order of a competent court of jurisdiction, is unlawful and violates the fundamental right of the Applicant to freedom of expression, freedom to hold opinions and receive and impact ideas and information without interference, as guaranteed by Section 39(1)(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Article 9(1) and (2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (CAP 10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990.

‘A declaration that the instruction given to the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) by the 4th Respondent to stop Nigerians (including the Applicant) from getting access to Twitter, violates the fundamental right of the Applicant to freedom of expression, freedom to hold opinions and receive and impact ideas and information without interference as guaranteed by Section 39(1)(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Article 9(1) and (2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (CAP 10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990.

‘A declaration that the directive given to the security operatives and the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation (DPP) by the 3rd Respondent to arrest and immediately prosecute users of Twitter in Nigeria (including the Applicant), infringes on the fundamental right of the Applicant to freedom of expression, freedom to hold opinions and receive and impact ideas and information without interference as guaranteed by Section 39(1)(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Article 9(1) and (2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (CAP 10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990, and a gross violation of Section 36(12) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), which forbids any act or omission to be referred to as a crime unless a written law says so.

‘Also an order of this Honourable Court setting aside the indefinite suspension, ban, sanction or other punishment whatsoever imposed on Twitter, the Applicant and other Nigerians and any social media service provider by the Respondents and their agents.’

In addition, Ubani is asking the court for ‘an order directing the 4th Respondent to immediately revoke, withdraw and/or rescind the formal instruction given to ALTON to suspend access to Twitter in Nigeria, as same violates Sections 39(1)(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Article 9(1) and (2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (CAP 10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990.

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Finally, ‘an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Respondents and their agents from unlawfully imposing sanctions and other punishment, including criminal prosecution or doing anything whatsoever to harass the Applicant, Nigerians, Twitter and any social media service provider in Nigeria’.

Grounds for Ubani’s application include amongst others, that he is one out of over 40 million Nigerians that subscribes and uses Twitter – a micro-blogging site to carry out his daily business and operational activities, access information, send and receive information, and freely communicate information and ideas about public and political issues using the Applicant’s Twitter handle.

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