NEWS

NEWSMAN, Abuja – Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, has reacted to the decision of the Court of the Economic Community of the West African States (ECOWAS), stopping President Muhammadu Buhari from prosecuting defaulters of the ban placed on microblogging platform, Twitter.

Recall that the Federal Government had recently suspended the operation of Twitter in Nigeria owing to allegations that it allows content capable of threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria.

Despite the ban, some Nigerians have continued to access Twitter via the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Reacting to the violation of the order, the Federal Government had vowed to prosecute the defaulters, including prominent Nigerians who dared his administration.

But the ECOWAS Court on Tuesday delivered a ruling which restrained president Buhari administration from arresting or prosecuting Nigerians using Twitter.

Reacting to the judgment, Keyamo said he had not seen anywhere where they said the ECOWAS Court is the moral thermometer or barometer to decide whether Nigeria’s image is bad or not.

The minister spoke during an interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today on Tuesday.

Keyamo said I have not seen anywhere where they said the ECOWAS court is the moral thermometer or barometer to decide whether Nigeria’s image is bad or not, Daily Post reported.

Nobody is saying that people should not use social media platforms, nobody is saying that we should not call government officials to ask questions. Nobody is saying that you should not even abuse us but is it right for you to go to social media and promote false stories that are capable of turning one part of the country against another?, he queried.

GlobeNews NEWS

NEWSMAN, Abuja – ECOWAS court of Justice in Abuja has restrained the Federal Government and its agents from arresting or prosecuting Nigerians who are making use of social media platform, Twitter, which was suspended by Nigeria two weeks ago.

Following the suspension, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, had threatened to arrest and prosecute Nigerians who were using Virtual Private Network to bypass the suspension of Twitter.

Civil Society Organisation, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, and 176 concerned Nigerians, however, instituted a suit before the ECOWAS court, arguing that the unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, criminalisation of Nigerians and other people using Twitter had escalated repression of human rights and unlawfully restricted the rights of Nigerians and other people to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom in the country.

In a statement by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said the ECOWAS court in a landmark ruling on Tuesday, restrained the regime of the President, Muhammadu Buhari, and its agents from “unlawfully imposing sanctions or doing anything whatsoever to harass, intimidate, arrest or prosecute Twitter or any other social media service provider, media houses, radio, television broadcast stations, the plaintiffs and other Nigerians who are Twitter users, pending the hearing and determination of this suit”.

The court gave the order after hearing arguments from Solicitor to SERAP, Femi Falana (SAN), and lawyer to the government Maimuna Shiru.

ECOWAS court further stated, “The court has listened very well to the objection by Nigeria. The court has this to say. 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 orders that the application be heard expeditiously. The Nigerian government must take immediate steps to implement the order”.

Reacting to the ruling, Falana said the intervention of the ECOWAS Court is a timely relief for millions of Nigerians using Twitter who have been threatened with prosecution under the provision of the Penal Code relating to sedition.

The senior advocate argued that contrary to a later assurance credited to Malami that violators of the Twitter suspension would not be prosecuted, the Federal Government filed processes in the ECOWAS Court threatening to prosecute Nigerians using Twitter for violating the suspension under the provisions of the Penal Code relating to sedition.

Falana said 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, Punch reported.

The substantive suit has been adjourned till July 6, 2021 for hearing of the substantive suit.

GlobeNews NEWS

NEWSMAN, Abuja – Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 176 concerned Nigerians have filed a lawsuit against the government of President Muhammadu Buhari over “the unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, criminalisation of Nigerians and other people using Twitter and the escalating repression of human rights, particularly the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom in the country.”

In the suit filed before the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in Abuja, SERAP and the concerned Nigerians are seeking “An order of interim injunction restraining the federal government from implementing its suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, and subjecting anyone, including media houses, broadcast stations using Twitter in Nigeria, to harassment, intimidation, arrest and criminal prosecution pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.”

Solicitor to SERAP, Femi Falana SAN, in the suit said the plaintiffs contend that “If this application is not urgently granted, the federal government will continue to arbitrarily suspend Twitter and threaten to impose criminal and other sanctions on Nigerians, telecommunication companies, media houses, broadcast stations and other people using Twitter in Nigeria, the perpetual order sought in this suit might be rendered nugatory, Daily Trust reported.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the interim application and the substantive suit.

GlobeNews NEWS NEWSMAN INVESTIGATES

NEWSMAN, Abuja – President of the ECOWAS Court, Justice Edward Asante on Tuesday said that the lack of political will on the part of member states to enforce its judgment was limiting its effectiveness, thereby affecting the confidence of litigants and members of the public.

Briefing newsmen during a virtual news conference on Tuesday, Asante said that aspect of enforcing judgments of the court does not rest with the court but with member states, a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) said.

According to him, the Member states were yet to play their part enshrined in the protocol, noting that even those who have met the requirements still disregard judgments of the court when they are served.

“The enforceability aspect of judgments has not been given to the court, it has been given to member states and member states have to have the political will to be able to enforce the judgments.

“Initially, by the amended protocol they have to appoint representatives in their various countries who will have to receive the judgements of the court and make sure they enforce them within their countries.

“It is only five member states who have appointed the representative, even then, those who have appointed, judgment is served on them and it still depends on the political will of the government,” he said.

He expressed worry that if the precedence continues, there may be no need for the court to continue existing if its judgments are not obeyed by member states.

As a way out, he proposed that the protocols be amended such that judgement creditors are allowed to enforce the judgment in their countries through the local courts.

He also called on the media and civil society groups to also play their part to advocate in the countries for the effective implementation of the rulings of the Community Court of Justice.

“The way out is for them to amend the protocols and rules of the court such that a judgement creditor can enforce it in the country by filing the judgement in the court system of his/her country and then proceed to enforce it.

“So it is also the duty of the journalists and civil society in our countries to rise up and ensure that their ministers who pass these laws and recommendations to the president are upheld.

“You have to let them know that people are getting disillusioned by the judgement of the court because if the court gives judgment and it cannot be enforced then what is the use of the court.”