A lawsuit filed in the ECOWAS court in Abuja calls for an interim order preventing the government from enforcing the suspension.
Dozens of Nigerians and a local rights group have filed a lawsuit in a regional court to try to lift the government ban on Twitter, describing the decision to suspend operations of the hugely popular social media platform as an attempt to silence criticism of the government.
Authorities announced the ban on Friday, two days after Twitter withdrew a post by President Muhammadu Buhari threatening to punish regional secessionists.
The government measure provoked a immediate reaction among social media users and human rights activists, with #NigeriaTwitterBan and #KeepitOn trending on the platform as Nigerians used virtual private networks to access the site. The government has said those who continued to use Twitter would be processed.
On Tuesday, the Socio-Economic Rights and Responsibility Project (SERAP), a local rights group, and 176 Nigerians filed a lawsuit in the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, to request an interim restriction. the government to enforce the ban.
“The suspension of Twitter aims to intimidate and prevent Nigerians from using Twitter to assess government policies, expose corruption and criticize acts of official impunity by federal government agents,” the lawsuit said, according to the group.
BREAK: SERAP and 176 concerned Nigerians have called on the ECOWAS Court of Justice, Abuja, to order a court order restricting the government of President Buhari from implementing the illegal suspension of Twitter in Nigeria and criminalizing Nigerians and others people who use Twitter.
– SERP (@SERAPNigeria) June 8, 2021
Kolawole Oluwadare, deputy director of SERAP, said the ban “negatively affected millions of Nigerians who carry out their daily business and operational activities on Twitter,” and described it as “the final test of the reduction of the ‘civil space in Nigeria and the government’s intention to stifle any opposition.’
In 2021, Nigeria ranked 120th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index.
Africa’s most populous country has been hailed as one of the few on the continent that attracts investment in its technology ecosystem, but it was recently shunned when Twitter chose neighboring Ghana for its first African headquarters.
Gbenga Sesan, executive director of the Paradigm Initiative, a pan-African social enterprise working on digital inclusion and rights, he told Al Jazeera the suspension of Twitter sent the wrong signal to foreign investors, adding that small businesses that use Twitter as a source of livelihood in Nigeria would be affected.
“Nigerian companies use digital media to reach customers, expose their brands and communicate with various stakeholders. No doubt this will be affected by this erratic decision, “he said.
Information Minister Lai Mohammed told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the suspension had nothing to do with the removal of Buhari’s tweet, but with “separatists inciting violence” online.
“Regulating social networks does not mean stifling press freedom. All we are talking about is the responsible use of these platforms, ”Mohammed said, adding that Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube were still accessible.
Nigeria has joined countries such as China, North Korea and Iran to issue a ban on Twitter, while Uganda, Turkey and Egypt have suspended the application during elections or political unrest.
The U.S.-based company said in a statement that it was “deeply concerned” as Internet access was “an essential human right in modern society” and will “work to restore access to all those in Nigeria”. who rely on Twitter to communicate. “