SERAP urges Buhari to withdraw conditions on Twitter
Socio-economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw the impermissible conditions imposed on Twitter.
That is, pending the final determination of the suit at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice in Abuja challenging the legality of the suspension of Twitter, to allow the court to render a decision on the central issues in the case, and protect the plaintiffs’ rights and interests.
Buhari, in his address to mark Nigeria’s 61 independence anniversary, stated that the Federal Government would only lift the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria if certain conditions, including concerns around national security, were met.
According to the organisation, the address also seems to suggest that even when the suspension is lifted, Nigerians will only be allowed to use Twitter for business and positive engagements.
In an open letter dated October 2, 2021, and signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said 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 the government to suspend Twitter in Nigeria.
The organisation said the conditions mock the case before the ECOWAS court and create a risk that the course of justice will be seriously impeded or prejudiced. It said protecting the right to a judicial recourse and due administration of justice is of utmost importance, being the cornerstone of an ordered society.
It said imposing impermissible conditions on Twitter would undermine the rights and interests of the plaintiffs in the ECOWAS court case filed against the 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.
SERAP said: “Pushing conditions on Twitter while the ECOWAS case is pending would prejudice the interests of the plaintiffs, undermine the ability of ECOWAS court to do justice in the case, damage public confidence in the court, and prejudice the outcome of the case.
“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 If not immediately withdrawn, the conditions would seriously undermine Nigeria’s international human rights obligations including under ECOWAS treaties and protocols, and have serious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.”