THE Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice in Abuja has restrained the Nigerian government from arresting and prosecuting citizens for making use of the recently suspended microblogging platform, Twitter.
Following Twitter suspension in Nigeria, Attorney General of the Federation Abubakar Malami had issued threats of arrests and prosecution of Nigerians who continued to gain access to the platform through the use of Virtual Private Network (VPN).
However, civil society organisations, along with several other concerned Nigerians, filed a lawsuit against the government at the ECOWAS court, describing the unlawful suspension of the platform and threats of persecution as violations of human rights.
The ruling was given by the court after hearing arguments from solicitor to Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) Femi Falana and the lawyer to the Federal Government Maimuna Shiru.
“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 ordered that the application be heard expeditiously. The Nigerian government must take immediate steps to implement the order,” the court held.
Falana described the intervention of the court as a timely relief for Nigerians still on Twitter, who had been threatened with prosecution.
“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,” Falana said.