The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 176 concerned Nigerians have slammed a lawsuit on President Muhammadu Buhari’s government over “the unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria”.
The suit No ECW/CCJ/APP/23/21 was filed today before the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in Abuja.
The applicants are against the criminalization of Nigerians using Twitter and the escalating repression of human rights, rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom.
In the suit filed by Solicitor to SERAP, Femi Falana (SAN), the plaintiffs are 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.”
They averred that if the application is not urgently granted, federal authorities will continue to arbitrarily suspend Twitter.
They added that the Buhari government was on the verge of slamming criminal charges and fines against telecommunication companies, media houses, broadcast stations and others.
The suit read in part: “The suspension of Twitter is aimed at stopping Nigerians from using Twitter and other social media platforms to assess government policies, expose corruption, and criticize acts of official impunity.
“The free communication of information and ideas about public and political issues between citizens and elected representatives is essential.
“This implies a free press and other media able to comment on public issues without censor or restraints and to inform public opinion. The public also has a corresponding right to receive media output.
“Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and the full enjoyment 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.”
Following the deletion of Buhari’s offensive tweet by Twitter, his government had retaliated by banning the operations of the microblogging giant in the country.
The government also threatened to arrest and prosecute anyone using Twitter, while the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) asked all broadcast stations to suspend the use of the social media platform.