The ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja has restrained the Federal Government from prosecuting Nigerians still using Twitter in the country.
The ruling followed the suit filed against the government by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 176 concerned Nigerians over the development.
On June 4, Lai Mohammed, minister of information, had announced the ‘indefinite’ suspension of Twitter’s operations in the country.
According to the minister, the social media platform was engaging in activities that “undermine Nigeria’s existence”.
Many Nigerians have avoided the ban by using Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to hide their location, an act the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, initially said would attract legal action.
In its Tuesday ruling, the court said the government must suspend any action against Nigerians, pending the hearing and determination of this suit.
“Any interference with Twitter is viewed as inference with human rights, and that will violate human rights,” the court said.
The ECOWAS court said it has jurisdiction to hear the case, and that the application will be treated expeditiously, with hearing on the substantive suit adjourned till July 6.
The suit argues that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and that the Nigerian government is trampling on the rights of Nigerians with the suspension.
“The suspension has seriously undermined the ability of Nigerians and other people in the country to freely express themselves in a democracy, and undermined the ability of journalists, media houses, broadcast stations, and other people to freely carry out their professional duties,” the applicants said.