A court of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) has disclosed that the ban on Twitter in Nigeria by President Muhammadu Buhari was unlawful.
The court therefore ordered President Muhammadu Buhari never to repeat such an unlawful act again. The Twitter ban which lasted for 222 days, had a negative impact on the Nigerian economy with economic losses of about N546.5 billion, before the Nigerian government finally decided to lift the ban.
Recall that the federal government announced the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria after the micro-blogging platform deleted a tweet made by President Buhari which violated the company’s abusive policy.
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The tweet made reference to the 1967 civil war experience, where millions of people from the southeast were killed by the Nigerian government.
The President wrote via a tweet, “Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian civil war. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in a language they understand”.
This tweet was however deleted by Twitter which further infuriated the federal government of Nigeria to ban the platform from operating in the country.
In the recent judgment delivered by the ECOWAS court, it disclosed that President Buhari’s act of suspending the operation of Twitter in Nigeria was unlawful and inconsistent with the provisions of Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and people’s right and Article 19 of the International Covenant on civil and political rights both of which Nigeria is a state party.
The court further ordered the Buhari administration to take necessary steps to align its policies and other measures to give effect to the rights and freedoms, and also to guarantee a non-repetition of the unlawful ban of Twitter.
The court, therefore, ordered the Buhari administration to bear the costs of the proceedings and directed the deputy Chief Registrar to assess the cost accordingly
Recall that when Twitter was banned in Nigeria, the Buhari-led administration stated that the order for the ban of Twitter was necessitated because the platform became a force for negative tendencies in Nigeria.
However, such action from the Nigerian government was followed by widespread criticism from across the globe from different leaders and activists, stating that the government violated the fundamental human rights of Nigerian citizens.
Nigeria is known to practice a democratic system of government, where freedom of expression is a fundamental human right of the people which is a cornerstone of democracy.
Therefore banning Twitter was a breach of the right of Nigerian citizens which goes contrary to its law.
With the latest judgment passed by the ECOWAS court, it disclosed that other heads of state and governments who are members of the Economic Community of West African State, should from henceforth respect and uphold the human rights of the community, to freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 9 of the African charter on human and people’s rights.