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Lawyer sues FG over Twitter ban

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Malcom Omirhobo

Human rights lawyer, Chief Malcom Omirhobo, has filed a suit against the Federal Government before the Economic Community of the West African States (ECOWAS) community court in Abuja over Twitter ban.

The vocal lawyer is asking the court to declare that there is no law enacted by the defendant’s legislature, which authorised the ban through its agent, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed.

He wants the court to also declare that the ban on Twitter from operating in Nigeria, hinders access to his Twitter account and therefore, constitutes a violation to his rights to freedom of association, speech and expression as well as the principles guaranteed and enshrined under Articles 9 and 10 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Omirhobo is asking the court to award him N500m damages against the defendant for violating his right to free speech and N10m cost of filing the legal action, totaling N510million.

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The applicant argued that the defendant’s action also violates principles 37 to 42 of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (65th Ordinary Session, November, 2019); Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance as well as section 39(1) of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution.

“A declaration that the act of the defendant, through its agent, the Attorney of the Federation of Nigeria, Abubakar Malami (SAN), who ordered the arrest and prosecution of Nigerians using Virtual Private Network (VPN) to access their Twitter account, violates section 36(8) of the defendant’s Constitution; Article 11 (2) of ICCPR and similar provisions of other international laws, which the defendant is a signatory.

“A declaration that the applicant has the right to use VPN to access his Twitter account and cannot be arrested or criminally prosecuted by the defendant, its agents, servants or privies,” he prayed.

Besides, the applicant wants the court to declare that the acts of the defendant, which have interfered with his rights to the freedom of association, speech and expression, are arbitrary, unlawful and contrary to all well-known international laws on human rights, to which the defendant has become a party.

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Consequently, he prayed the court to order the defendant to withdraw the ban on Twitter and have the withdrawal published in all the major national dailies within the country.

“An order voiding and annulling the order of the defendant, through its agent, attorney general of the federation, directing the arrest and criminal prosecution of Nigerians, who used VPN to access their Twitter account, to enable the applicant access his Twitter account via VPN without any threat of arrest or prosecution.

“An order of the court, directing the defendant to pay the applicant damages in the sum of N500 million on the footing of exemplary and aggravated damages for unlawful violation of the applicant’s rights; the defendant’s actions being negligent, oppressive, arbitrary, capacious, and for injuring the feeling of the applicant and for causing him great physical and psychological distress and trauma,” he prayed.

Apart from praying the court to direct the defendant to pay him the cost of filing the action in the sum of N10, 000,000, he is asking for a perpetual injunction, restraining the defendant, its agencies, servants and privies from further doing anything either by way of official policy, instruction and/or investigation that will in any way impede against the existence and operation of his rights to freedom of association, speech and expression in a democratic society, which are guaranteed as fundamental freedoms under Articles  9 and 10 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights among others.

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