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JUST IN: ECOWAS Court Restraints Nigerian Government From Prosecuting Twitter Users

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The ECOWAS court of justice sitting in Abuja on Tuesday, 22 June, restrained the federal government and its agents from unlawfully imposing sanctions or doing anything whatsoever to harass Nigerians who are Twitter users, pending the hearing and determination of the suit filed by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).

The court also restrained the government and its agents from intimidating, arresting, or prosecuting any Twitter or any other social media service provider(s), media houses, radio, and television broadcast stations.

According to The Nation, the ruling followed the suit filed against the government by SERAP and 176 concerned Nigerians.

The court gave the order after hearing arguments from Solicitor to SERAP, Femi Falana SAN, and lawyer to the government Maimuna Shiru.

The plaintiff had argued that “the unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, criminalization of Nigerians and other people using Twitter have escalated repression of human rights and unlawfully restricted the rights of Nigerians and other people to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom in the country.”

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 an inference 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.”

This development was disclosed in a statement issued Tuesday by SERAP’s deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare.

Reacting to the ruling, Femi Falana, SAN said the intervention of the ECOWAS Court is 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.

“Contrary to the assurance credited to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN that violators of the Twitter would not be prosecuted, the Federal Government filed processes in the ECOWAS Court threatening to prosecute Nigerians using Twitter for violating the suspension under the provisions 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.

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