ECOWAS Court Consolidates Four Suits Challenging Nigerian Government’s Decision to Suspend Access to Twitter in Nigeria

Four suits filed before the ECOWAS Court of Justice challenging the decision by the Federal Republic of Nigeria to ban the use of Twitter in the country have been consolidated by the Court.

The Court delivered its ruling after hearing the submission of all parties in the suits and following the 5th July 2021 application by the Respondent, the Federal Republic of Nigeria for their consolidation as they are on the same subject matter.

Suits nos. ECW/CCJ/APP/23/21, ECW/CCJ/APP/29/21, ECW/CCJ/APP/24/21, and ECW/CCJ/APP/26/21 were filed by the Registered Trustees of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP); Media Rights Agenda and eight others; Chief Malcolm Omirhobo; and Patrick Eholor respectively.

The four parties sued the Nigerian government challenging its decision to suspend access to twitter in Nigeria, alleging that it constituted the violation of their fundamental rights including their rights to freedom of expression and press freedom.

Three groups – Access Now, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Open Net Association filed a joint application alongside SERAP seeking to intervene as amicus curiae to provide useful findings which may assist the Court in adjudicating the matter.

Another group, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights also filed an application to intervene in the matter as an amicus curiae.

These independent groups are offering to give insights regarding a State’s interference with the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, access to information, political participation and socio-economic rights in the internet age.

At an earlier hearing of 22nd June 2021, the Court ruled on the application for interim measures filed by SERAP and ordered the Nigerian government and its agents to “refrain from imposing sanction on any media house or harassing, intimidating, arresting and prosecuting the Applicants, concerned Nigerians for the use of Twitter and other social media platforms,” pending the determination of the substantive suit challenging the ban.

The Court fixed 29th September 2021 for the resumption of hearing in the suit.

The three member panel of Judges in the suit include Justices Gberi-Be- Ouattara (presiding), Keikura Bangura (judge rapporteur) and Januaria Costa.