The ECOWAS court of Justice in Abuja has restrained the Government of President Muhammadu Buhari and its agents from arresting or prosecuting Nigerians who are making use of social media platform.
The court gave the order on Tuesday following an application by Civil Society Organisation, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project(SERAP) and 176 concerned citizens after Twitter was banned by the government two weeks ago.
The court also protected social media service providers, radio and television broadcast stations and others from prosecution pending the hearing and determination of this suit.
After the ban on Twitter, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, had threatened to arrest and prosecute Nigerians who are using Virtual Private Network to circumvent the suspension of the social media platform.
After hearing arguments from Solicitor to SERAP, Femi Falana (SAN), and lawyer to the government Maimuna Shiru, the court said, “The court has listened very well to the objection by Nigeria. The court has this to say. Any interference with Twitter is viewed as interference with human rights, and that will violate human rights. Therefore, this court has jurisdiction to hear the case. The court also hereby orders that the application be heard expeditiously. The Nigerian government must take immediate steps to implement the order.”
Mr. Falana described the ruling as a timely relief for millions of Nigerians using Twitter who have been threatened with prosecution under the provision of the Penal Code relating to sedition.
“It is extremely embarrassing that the Federal Government could threaten to jail Nigerians for sedition, which was annulled by the Court of Appeal in 1983, in the case of Arthur Nwankwo vs The State,” he said.
The hearing of the substantive suit was adjourned to July 6, 2021.