ECOWAS Court Declares FG’s Twitter Ban Unlawful

The ECOWAS Court has declared the suspension of Twitter’s operations by the Federal Government from June last year till January this year as unlawful.

The court gave the ruling in a suit filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 176 concerned Nigerians, in reaction to the suspension, announced by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration in June, 2021.

In its judgment delivered on Thursday, 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.

Also, the Court ordered the Buhari administration to bear the costs of the proceedings and directed the Deputy Chief Registrar to assess the costs accordingly.

The Nigerian government had announced the ban after a tweet by the President was deleted by the social media platform for violating its policies. It had also threatened to arrest and prosecute anyone using the platform with the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) also asking all broadcast stations to suspend the patronage of Twitter.

This prompted SERAP and others to sue the government.