By Francis IWUCHUKWU, Lagos
The Federal Government of Nigeria, FGN, was on Monday charged to immediately take measures to ensure the execution of the judgment of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, which ruled on July 14, 2022, that the indefinite suspension of access to Twitter was unlawful and violated the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, ACHPR, as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ICCPR.
The charge came from the Media Rights Agenda, MRA, through a statement issued by its Head of Legal Department, Ms. Obioma Okonkwo, who reminded the Government that under Article 15(4) of the Revised ECOWAS Treaty, judgments of the Court are binding on Nigeria as a member State while Article 22(3) of the Protocol of the Community Court of Justice, as amended by the Supplementary Protocol of the Court, stipulates that “The Member States and institutions of the Community shall take immediately all necessary measures to ensure execution of the decision of the Court.”
In the light of the provisions and the judgment of the Court, according to her, Nigeria was under a legal obligation to amend its laws and policies to bring them into conformity with the African Charter and the ICCPR as well as to guarantee that the suspension of Twitter would not re-occur, as directed by the Court.
In addition to the consequential order made by the Court in its judgment, directing the Government to lift the suspension of Twitter since the suspension was in contravention of Article 9 of the African Charter and Article 19 of the ICCPR, it also ordered the Government to take necessary steps to align its policies and other measures to give effect to the rights and freedoms enshrined in the African Charter and the ICCPR.
The Court further directed the Government to undertake an act of legislative or other measures on its rules regarding Twitter to enable the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under the African Charter and asked it to guarantee a non-repetition of the unlawful ban of Twitter.
Specifically, it ordered Nigeria to ensure the unlawful suspension of Twitter would not reoccur and to take necessary steps to amend its laws to conform with the rights and freedoms enshrined in the ACHPR and ICCPR.
The court’s orders were contained in its judgment in four consolidated suits filed by MRA, other non-governmental organisations, journalists, and some Nigerian citizens challenging the Government’s June 2021 decision to suspend access to Twitter in Nigeria.
The four suits that were consolidated are:
Suit No. ECW/CCJ/APP/29/21 filed by Mrs. Mojirayo Ogunlana-Nkanga on behalf of Media Rights Agenda and four other non-governmental organizations, namely: Paradigm Initiative, PIN, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, PTCIJ, the International Press Centre, IPC, and Tap Initiative for Citizens Development, TICD, as well as four journalists, Mr. David Hundeyin, Mr. Samuel Ogundipe, Ms. Blessing Oladunjoye, and Mr. Nwakamri Zakari Apollo;
Suit No. ECW/CCJ/APP/23/21, filed by Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), on behalf of Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, a Lagos-based NGO, and 176 Nigerians;
Suit No. ECW/CCJ/APP/26/21. Filed by Mr. Patrick Elohor, President of the NGO, One Love Foundation; and Suit No. ECW/CCJ/APP/24/21, filed by Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, a Lagos-based human rights lawyer.
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