"You Lack Jurisdiction To Criminalise Twitter Ban", Nigerian Government Fires At ECOWAS Court

 The Nigerian government has filed a preliminary objection against the ruling of the ECOWAS Court of Justice on the Twitter Ban in Nigeria, stating that the 'subject matter of the suit is not for the enforcement of any human rights recognised by the court'.


Recall that on Tuesday, the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, in its ruling, prohibited the Nigerian government from prosecuting or arresting anyone for using Twitter in Nigeria.

The suit was filed by the SERAP and 176 other Nigerians against the Nigerian government in the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice over the indefinite suspension of Twitter in the country.

A few hours to the hearing of the suit, the Buhari administration filed and served a preliminary objection, claiming that "The subject matter of this suit is not for the enforcement of any human right recognised by this Court."

The federal government based its argument on the motion that the suspension of Twitter does not fall under the provisions of article 8 and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights hence it is not within the jurisdiction of the court.

It also argued that Twitter is not an organisation or member state of the ECOWAS.

As a profit-making entity, the Nigerian government noted that Twitter can be dissolved in compliance with national laws citing certain provisions of the Penal Code, the Federal Provisions Act, and the Criminal Code.

However, this preliminary objection by the Nigerian government was dismissed by the ECOWAS Court.

The Federal Government's objection, read in part: "Particulars: The subject matter of the SERAP suit relates to the indefinite suspension of Twitter in Nigeria. This is not in any way connected to any Nigerian or SERAP. Individual user's Twitter accounts are not suspended.

"The right to freedom of expression is completely different from freedom of reach. The suspension of Twitter does not fall under the provisions of arts 8 and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.

"Twitter as an entity is not an organisation of any member state as it is an American microblogging networking service. The suspension of Twitter in Nigeria is not a right recognised under any treaty enforceable by this Court.

"In the unlikely event that this Honourable Court agrees with SERAP that the suspension of Twitter is a fundamental right, the dissolution or liquidation of Twitter as a profit-making entity may as well open a floodgate and vest the users the rights of a non-existent right.

"Twitter is a profit-making entity that can be proscribed/dissolved in compliance with any national laws. The compulsory shutdown of an entity cannot be termed the breach of any fundamental rights by this Honourable Court.

"The suspension of Twitter in Nigeria is in compliance with the provisions of sections 420, 419 of the Penal Code [Northern Nigeria]; Federal Provisions Act, and section 58 of the Criminal Code Act. The operation of Twitter is in violation of Nigerian domestic legislation.

"Ground Two: This Court lacks the jurisdiction to determine the criminalisation of an act under Nigerian laws. The subject matter of the SERAP suit borders on the criminalisation of Twitter operations in Nigeria pursuant to the Penal Code and the Criminal Code.

"The use and operation of Twitter in Nigeria constitutes the offences of Importation of Prohibited publication under sections 420 and 421 or the offence of possession of seditious articles under section 419 of the Penal Code Federal Provisions Act.

"In any event, there is a right of action vested in the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, the said right vests directly on Twitter and not individual users of Twitter. This is more so that individual user's Twitter accounts were not tempered but only the operation of Twitter.

"Nigerians and SERAP have no cause of action. The suspension of Twitter in Nigeria is in compliance with the provisions of sections 420, 419 of the Penal Code and section 58 of the Criminal Code, and sections 78 and 79 of CAMA 2020."

The Nigerian Government on June 4 suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service in Nigeria.

Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, announced the suspension in a statement signed by his Special Assistant Segun Adeyemi citing the “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence”.

SERAP, shortly after the government's suspension, tweeted, "We're suing Nigerian authorities over their ILLEGAL indefinite suspension of Twitter in Nigeria.

"Nigerians have a right to freedom of expression and access to information including online, and we plan to fight to keep it that way.

"@NigeriaGov, we'll see you in court."


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