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FG to ECOWAS court: You lack jurisdiction to criminalise Twitter suspension

FG to ECOWAS court: You lack jurisdiction to criminalise Twitter suspension
June 23
12:59 2021

The federal government says the suspension of the operations of Twitter in Nigeria is not a right recognised under any treaty enforceable by the ECOWAS court. 

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The government said this in a preliminary objection on Tuesday filed to challenge the suit by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 176 concerned Nigerians, over its directive to prosecute those violating the suspension.

According to the suit which was, however, dismissed, the government argued that the court lacks the jurisdiction to “determine the criminalisation of an act under Nigerian laws”.

It said Twitter is a microblogging site, and not “an organisation of any member state”.

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“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,” it said.

“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.

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“Twitter is a profit-making entity that 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 criminalisation of Twitter operation in Nigeria pursuant to the Penal Code and the Criminal Code.

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“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.”

The government said “Nigerians and SERAP have no cause of action,” adding that the suspension of Twitter is backed by provisions of the Company and Allied Matters Act, 2020.

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1 Comment

  1. Sicario maranzano
    Sicario maranzano June 25, 09:13

    Twitter is not a registered company in Nigeria. Therefore, it is an aberration to purport to ban a non existent entity within the territory called Nigeria. It is altra vires. The ban of twitter in Nigeria therefore, is an indirect way of banning users, here Nigerians using the virtual platform Twitter to express their opinion via their fundamental rights to expression. If the Federal Government bans a non existent entity like twitter in Nigeria, they have inadvertently is banning other virtual platforms of expression; facebook, whatsapp, Instagram etc. If Nigerians can still use other platforms to express themselves, then banning twitter is a misnomer. It means nothing and ineffective. Therefore, the only breach of law is the federal government tampering on the fundamental rights of its citizens through the indirect invocation and mandate through NBC forcing internet providers, service providers to block twitter access. That is unlawful as well as a misuse due to these companies being an entity registered in Nigeria.

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