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ECOWAS Court Declares Twitter Ban Unlawful, Cautions Buhari Gov’t

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The ECOWAS Court has declared unlawful the suspension of Twitter by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, and ordered the administration not to repeat it again.

This development is coming on the heels of a suit by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 176 concerned Nigerians.

Recall that following the deletion of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed announced the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria.

The government also threatened to arrest and prosecute anyone using Twitter in the country, while the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) asked all broadcast stations to suspend the patronage of Twitter.

But in the judgment delivered on Thursdays, the ECOWAS court declared that it had the jurisdiction to hear the case, and that the case was therefore admissible.

The court ruled that 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 a fair hearing,” the court ruled.

It also ordered the Buhari-led 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.

The ECOWAS court also ordered the government to bear the costs of the proceedings and directed the Deputy Chief Registrar to assess the costs accordingly.

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