SERAP reacts after Buhari lists conditions for lifting of Twitter ban

President Muhammadu Buhari, Friday gave two reasons the suspended Micro blogging site, Twitter, would be lifted in the country.


Disclosing this in his nationwide broadcast to Nigerians to mark the nation’s 61st independence, Buhari said Twitter ban would be lifted if Nigerians continue the use of the platform for business and positive engagements.


His words: “Social media is a very useful platform that has enabled millions of Nigerians to connect with loved ones, promote their businesses, socialise, and access news and other information.

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“However, recent events have shown that the platform is not just an innocuous platform for information dissemination.


“Rather some users have misused the platform to organise, coordinate, and execute criminal activities, propagate fake news, and promote ethnic and religious sentiments.

“To address these negative trends, the Federal Government of Nigeria suspended the operations of Twitter in Nigeria on June 5, 2021 to allow the Government put measures in place to address these challenges.

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“Following the suspension of Twitter operations, Twitter Inc. reached out to the Federal Government of Nigeria to resolve the impasse. Subsequently, I constituted a Presidential Committee to engage Twitter to explore the possibility of resolving the issue.


“The Committee, along with its Technical Team, has engaged with Twitter and have addressed a number of key issues. These are National Security and Cohesion; Registration, Physical presence and Representation; Fair Taxation; Dispute Resolution; and Local Content.


“Following the extensive engagements, the issues are being addressed and I have directed that the suspension be lifted but only if the conditions are met to allow our citizens continue the use of the platform for business and positive engagements.

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“As a country, we are committed to ensuring that digital companies use their platform to enhance the lives of our citizens, respect Nigeria’s sovereignty, cultural values and promote online safety.”


Reacting, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently withdraw the impermissible conditions imposed on Twitter pending the final determination of the suit at the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja challenging the legality of the suspension of Twitter.


SRAP maintained that the withdrawal is to allow the court to render a decision on the central issues in the case, and protect the plaintiffs’ rights and interests.


Buhari had stated in his address to mark Nigeria’s 61 independence anniversary, that the Federal Government would only lift the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria if certain conditions, including concerns around national security, are met.


The address also suggested that even when the suspension is lifted, Nigerians will only be allowed to use Twitter for business and positive engagements.

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Consequently, SERAP, In an open letter dated October 2, 2021, its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, stated: “The conditions imposed on Twitter while the ECOWAS case is pending constitute an interference with the right of SERAP and other plaintiffs to fairly and effectively pursue a judicial challenge to the decision by your government to suspend Twitter in Nigeria.


“The conditions make a mockery of the case pending before the ECOWAS court, and create a risk that the course of justice will be seriously impeded or prejudiced in this case. Protecting the right to a judicial recourse and due administration of justice is of utmost importance, being the cornerstone of an ordered society.”


“Imposing impermissible conditions on Twitter would undermine the rights and interests of the Plaintiffs in the ECOWAS Court case filed against your government, as the conditions directly touch on the central issues of freedom of expression and access to information, which the court is set to determine and rule upon.”


The letter, read in part: “It is in the public interest to keep the streams of justice clear and pure, and to maintain the authority of the ECOWAS court in the case. If not immediately withdrawn, the conditions would seriously undermine Nigeria’s international human rights obligations including under ECOWAS treaties and protocols, and have serious consequences for the public interest.


“Given that the only way in which SERAP and other plaintiffs can have a fair and effective access to justice is to allow the court to decide on the merits of the case before it, fairness and justice must, on the facts of the ECOWAS case, outweigh any stated national security conditions.


“Your government should allow the ECOWAS Court to decide these issues, especially as the Federal Government has made the arguments on national security before the court.

“The core of the principle of judicial independence is the complete liberty of the judge to hear and decide the cases before them on the basis of facts and in accordance with the law, without any improper interference, direct or indirect.


“SERAP therefore urges you to urgently withdraw the conditions imposed on Twitter, and to allow the ECOWAS court to decide on the suit brought by SERAP and other plaintiffs challenging the legality of the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria. Judgment in the suit is fixed for 20 January, 2022.”

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