By Adedapo Adesanya
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 176 concerned Nigerians have filed a lawsuit against the federal government led by President Muhammadu Buhari over “the unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, criminalization of Nigerians and other people using Twitter, and the escalating repression of human rights, particularly the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom in the country.”
Following the deletion of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet, the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, last week announced the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria.
The government has also threatened to arrest and prosecute anyone using Twitter in the country, while the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has asked all broadcast stations to suspend the patronage of Twitter.
In the suit No ECW/CCJ/APP/23/21 filed on Tuesday before the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in Abuja, SERAP and the concerned Nigerians are seeking: “An order of interim injunction restraining the Federal Government from implementing its suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, and subjecting anyone including media houses, broadcast stations using Twitter in Nigeria, to harassment, intimidation, arrest and criminal prosecution, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.”
In the suit filed by Solicitor to SERAP, Mr Femi Falana SAN, the Plaintiffs contend that “if this application is not urgently granted, the Federal Government will continue to arbitrarily suspend Twitter and threaten to impose criminal and other sanctions on Nigerians, telecommunication companies, media houses, broadcast stations and other people using Twitter in Nigeria, the perpetual order sought in this suit might be rendered nugatory.”
The suit, read in part: “The suspension of Twitter is aimed at intimidating and stopping Nigerians from using Twitter and other social media platforms to assess government policies, expose corruption, and criticize acts of official impunity by the agents of the Federal Government.”
“The free communication of information and ideas about public and political issues between citizens and elected representatives is essential. This implies a free press and other media able to comment on public issues without censor or restraints and to inform public opinion. The public also has a corresponding right to receive media output.
“Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and the full enjoyment of this right is central to achieving individual freedom and to developing democracy. It is not only the cornerstone of democracy but indispensable to a thriving civil society.
“The arbitrary action by the Federal Government and its agents have negatively impacted millions of Nigerians who carry on their daily businesses and operational activities on Twitter. The suspension has also impeded the freedom of expression of millions of Nigerians, who criticize and influence government policies through the microblogging app.
“The suspension of Twitter is arbitrary, and there is no law in Nigeria today permitting the prosecution of people simply for peacefully exercising their human rights through Twitter and other social media platforms.
“The suspension and threat of prosecution by the Federal Government constitute a fundamental breach of the country’s international human rights obligations including under Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.
“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.
“A lot of Nigerians at home and abroad rely on Twitter coverage of topical issues of public interest to access impartial, objective and critical information about ideas and views on how the Nigerian government is performing its constitutional and international human rights obligations.
“The implication of the decline in freedom of expression in Nigeria is that the country is today ranked alongside countries hostile to human rights and media freedom such as Afghanistan, Chad, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe and Colombia.”
SERAP and the concerned Nigerians are therefore asking the ECOWAS Court of Justice for the following reliefs:
A Declaration that the action of the Defendant and its agents in suspending the operation of Twitter or any other social media and microblogging application without an order of a competent court of jurisdiction is unlawful, inconsistent and incompatible with Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
A Declaration that the act of the Defendant in mandating its agent to commence and continue to regulate the social media in Nigeria amounts to restriction and censorship, thus violating Nigeria’s obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
A Declaration that the act of the Defendant and its agents in suspending the operation of Twitter or any other social media and microblogging application in Nigeria without any offence known to law is incompatible with Nigeria’s international human rights obligations, and are therefore null and void to the extent of their inconsistency and incompatibility.
A Declaration that the directive by the Defendant, through the National Broadcasting Commission, directing and ‘advising’ broadcast stations to deactivate their Twitter accounts and discontinue its use is a breach of the citizens’ right to freedom of expression, access to information as well as media freedom, and therefore, null and void.
A Declaration that the act of the Defendant to frequently threaten Nigerians and other people who use Twitter and/or other social microblogging applications in Nigeria with criminal prosecution and the actual act of suspending the operations of Twitter in Nigeria, violates the principle that there is no punishment without law, and the right to a fair hearing, and therefore, null and void.
An Order setting aside the suspension, ban, sanction or other punishments whatsoever imposed on Twitter, Nigerians, media houses, broadcast stations and any social media service providers by Defendant and its agents.
An Order directing the Defendant and its agents to immediately revoke, withdraw and/or rescind their suspension or ban of Twitter and/or any other social media service provider(s) in Nigeria in line with Nigeria’s obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Revised ECOWAS Treaty 1993.
An order of perpetual injunction restraining the Defendant and its agents from unlawfully imposing sanctions and other punishment including criminal prosecution or doing anything whatsoever to harass Twitter, broadcast stations, Nigerians and other people and any social media service provider(s), and media houses who are Twitter users.
Such further orders the Honorable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances of this suit.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the interim application and the substantive suit.
COVID-19: Jesus Christ Would Have Supported Vaccination—APC Group
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A group known as the APC Mandate Defenders has slammed Senior Pastor of Dunamis International Gospel Centre, Mr Paul Enenche, for criticising the federal government for directing federal civil servants to receive the COVID-19 vaccination by December 2021.
The cleric had described this directive as one from the pit of hell, while the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Section on Public Interest and Development Law, Mr Monday Ubani, threatened to sue the federal government if this was enforced.
But in a statement issued on Saturday, the APC group said the central idea behind the vaccination was to save lives, stressing that Jesus Christ would have done the same if he were to be alive in this generation, saying compulsory vaccination is not from the pit of hell.
In the statement issued by the National Publicity Secretary of the organisation, Mr Ifeanyi Emeka, it said it was very proud of Mr Enenche for leading the Christian folks back to God especially the several charitable works and donations made during the lockdowns but then, the pastor ought to have known that COVID-19 was still constantly looking for who to kill on daily basis.
“However, we are praying that God will further open the spiritual eyes of pastor Enenche and other men of God opposed to compulsory vaccination so that they can see how deadly the virus is and probably recommit themselves to the ongoing battle against the virus,” it stated.
APC Mandate Defenders used the opportunity to condemn Mr Ubani for threatening to sue the FG, noting that the virus is a biological war waged against humanity that requires the deployment of all weapons to win the battle, emphasising that the lawyer ought to have known that in war all is fair.
“Since the law is made for man and not man for the law, compulsory vaccination for civil servants is one of the fundamental ways of flattening the curve,” it said.
“Accordingly, Dr Ubani and others opposed to compulsory vaccination should note that civil servants do travel to other countries for training and other essential assignments on behalf of the country and it will not be right if Nigerians are denied access to such countries as a result of their vaccination status or vaccine Passport which is the new normal in the world today.
“As a learned gentleman, Dr Ubani ought to have also known that sometimes, what is right may not be legal and what is legal may not be right.
“Therefore, it is in Nigeria’s national interest that civil servants be forced to take the vaccines for the safety of Nigerians and for the preservation of our corporate existence as members of the inter-connected world.
“We, therefore, advise Nigerians to take the vaccines and join the battle to flatten the curve in the country,” the statement noted.
UN to Cut Food Rations in North-East Nigeria
By Adedapo Adesanya
*Internally Displaced Persons Hit 2 million in September
The United Nations through its World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that it may soon be forced to cut food rations to more than half a million women, men and children in north-eastern Nigeria.
This was disclosed by WFP’s Regional Director for West Africa, Mr Chris Nikoi, in a statement over the weekend, explaining that there was a need for urgent funding to continue life-saving operations in crisis-ridden Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States.
The WFP director stated that the cuts would come just as severe hunger reached a five-year high in the country, in the wake of years of conflict and insecurity, noting that the situation had been worsened by the socio-economic fallout from COVID-19, high food prices and limited food supply.
“Cutting rations means choosing who gets to eat and who goes to bed hungry. We are seeing funding for our life-saving humanitarian work dry up just at the time when hunger is at its most severe,” the director stated.
Mr Nikoi warned that if at least $55 million was not received in a matter of weeks, WFP would have no choice but to cut food rations and reduce the number of people it serves, where assistance is already prioritised for the most vulnerable as early as November.
“Our food assistance is a lifeline for millions whose lives have been upended by conflict and have almost nothing to survive on. “We must act now to save lives and avoid disruptions to this lifeline,” Mr Nikoi added.
He said that the number of Internally Displaced People (IDP) forced to flee their homes in search of safety in northeast Nigeria had been rising steadily, reaching a new all-time high of over 2 million in September 2021.
The WFP director said that current food security analyses showed that 4.4 million people in northeast Nigeria did not know where their next meal would come from, and over 1 million children are already malnourished.
He cited continued attacks on communities by non-state armed groups, harsh lean season conditions amid an economy dealing with the fallout from the COVID-19, as portending great danger for the people.
Mr Nikoi added that high food prices and a severe reduction in household purchasing power had also contributed to a bleak outlook for the most vulnerable people in northeast Nigeria, warning that despite increasing needs, WFP may soon be unable to sustain life-saving operations in the conflict-riddled north-east.
Land Grabbing: Group Tells Lagos to Obey Supreme Court Judgement
By Mohammed Kerimu
Members of the Shangisha/Magodo Landlord Association of Nigeria have advised the Lagos State Government to obey and execute the judgement of the supreme court ordering the allocation of 549 plots of land them.
This call was made on Friday at a press conference organised by the group, where the Chairman of the association, Mr Adebayo Adeyiga, addressed newsmen in Lagos.
The group appealed to the state government to complement the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari by executing the court order and not to continue to show attitudes suggesting that the state is operating a different constitution other than the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which President Buhari and Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State swore to defend.
The body emphasised that as long as Lagos State was still part of the Nigerian federation, it must operate within the context of the law because the state itself is a creation of the Nigerian Constitution.
The group wondered why Lagos State Government that is among the states clamouring for the implementation of a court decision on the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) even when the matter is still in the court could turn a blind eye to the execution of the supreme court judgement ordering the allocation of 549 plots of land to members of the group.
It will be recalled that about 37 years ago, the Lagos State Government collected Shangisha/Magodo land belonging to members of the association under the guise that it will use it for the construction of an international standard hospital; relying on the over-riding public interest classification of the Land Use Act of Nigeria.
Accordingly, the state evicted the landlords and pulled down their houses and other immovable properties in the area but to the surprise of everyone, the then administration, instead of using the land for its intended purpose, allegedly converted the land to personal properties; allocating plots to their family members, friends and cronies despite the excruciating pains the original owners were subjected to.
Angered by such development, members of the association initiated several court actions up to the apex court before the supreme court finally ruled that the land should be returned to its original owners since the intended objective was not achieved.
However, the state government paid deaf ears to the judgement behaving as if Lagos State was above the law of Nigeria.
The group, therefore, called on President Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami to prevail on Lagos State government to execute the judgement of the apex court, saying justice is distorted when the victim pays for the conducts of the accused.
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