Twitter usage: SERAP sues Buhari, Lai Mohammed, alleges FG curtailing free speech

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has sued the and the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, at the Federal in Abuja over the directive to all broadcast stations in the country to suspend the use of Twitter.

The National Broadcasting Commission had given the directive following the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria by the over alleged use of the for activities the government said were capable of undermining the existence of Nigeria.

In the suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare, Kehinde Oyewumi and Opeyemi Owolabi, the body the to the and Mohammed from using “ patently unlawful directive to all TV and radio stations not to use Twitter, and to delete accounts as a pretext to harass, intimidate, suspend or impose criminal punishment on journalists and broadcast stations simply for using social media platforms.”

The group, in the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/496/2021, sought an order restraining the government of , Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), the NBC, and Mohammed and any other from censoring, regulating, licensing and controlling the social media operations and contents by broadcast stations, and activities of social media providers in Nigeria.

SERAP also sought “an order setting aside the directive by NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed asking broadcast stations to using Twitter, as it is unconstitutional, unlawful…”

The group argued the present administration had consistently made policies and given directives to “crack down on media freedom, and the rights of Nigerians to freedom of expression and access to information, and to impose crippling fines and other sanctions on broadcast stations without any legal basis.”

SERAP further sought, “A declaration the provision of section 2[1][r] of the National Broadcasting Act and sections 5.6.3, 5.11.3 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, being inconsistent and incompatible sections 36[1], 39 and 22 of the Nigerian , Article 9 of the African Charter on and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are null and void to the extent of inconsistency and incompatibility.

“A declaration the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed lacked the power and authority to unlawfully impose penalties such as fines and other sanctions on any journalists and broadcast stations for using Twitter and refusing or failing to deactivate Twitter handles.”