Nigerian Government’s objection to ECOWAS Court suit on Twitter ban [transcript]

June 22, 2021
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The Nigerian Government on Tuesday filed an objection to a suit by the Socio-Economic Rights & Accountability Project, SERAP at the ECOWAS Court, defending its suspension of Twitter in the country.

A few hours to a hearing of the case, the government filed its objection arguing that “The subject matter of this suit is not for the enforcement of any human right recognized by this Court.”

It continued further; “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 organization of any member state as it is an American microblogging networking service. The suspension of Twitter in Nigeria is not a right recognized 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 which can be proscribed/dissolved in compliance with any national laws. The compulsory shut down 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 criminalization of an act under Nigerian laws. The subject matter of the SERAP suit borders on the criminalization of Twitter operation 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.”

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