Human rights lawyers, Malcolm Omirhobo and Samuel ihensekhien of the One Love Foundation have filed a lawsuit against the Nigerian Government at the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in Abuja over the suspension of micro-blogging platform, Twitter.
In separate suits filed on Wednesday by the activists in Abuja, they argued that the suspension was aimed at stopping Nigerians from using Twitter and other social media platforms to assess government policies and expose corruption.
The activists are seeking a declaration that the actions of Nigerian government and its agents in enforcing the ban of Twitter usage, harass, arrest, prosecute and imprison journalists, bloggers, or any Nigerian national violate the rights to freedom of expression and information.
They are also seeking a declaration that the threat by the Nigerian government and the application to clamp down on Twitter usage was illegal and unlawful as it may amount to breach of obligation to respect, protect and promote the rights to freedom of expression and information.
The suit also sought an order directing the Nigerian government to allow the operation and restoration of Twitter services in the country.
Other reliefs sought by the plaintiffs include a declaration that the plaintiff has the right to use VPN to access their Twitter account and cannot be arrested or criminally prosecuted for using VPN.
That there was no law enacted by the legislature, which authorised the Twitter ban by the Defendant, through its agent, the Minister of Information and Culture.
They are also seeking a declaration that the Minister of Information and Culture, and the Attorney General of the Federation have interfered with the Plaintiff' rights to the freedom of association, speech and expression contrary to the fundamental freedoms and principles guaranteed and enshrined under Articles 9 and 10 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Principles 37 to 42 of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Declaration of Principles on Freedom of expression and Access to Information in Africa (65th Ordinary Session, November, 2019).
President Muhammadu Buhari had suspended Twitter operations, citing the “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence”.
The lawyers said the government would continue to violate Nigerians' rights to freedom of association, speech and expression and suffer irreversible damage, ranging from loss of clients, economic loss, physical and psychological balance unless the court grants the reliefs sought.
A consortium of lawyers under the aegis of 'One love Foundation' had on 4th June, 2021 called for immediate reversal of the ban of the micro-blogging site. The group also threatened to take legal action against the government.
Social Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 176 concerned Nigerians had earlier filed a lawsuit, challenging the government of Buhari over the indefinite suspension of microblogging platform, Twitter.