The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court has fixed September 29, 2021, to hear consolidated suits filed against the federal government of Nigeria over the indefinite suspension of Twitter in Nigeria.
The suits were filed against the Nigerian Government by Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Paradigm Initiative (PIN), Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), the International Press Centre (IPC), and Tap Initiative for Citizens Development (TICD) as well as four journalists; Mr David Hundeyin, Mr Samuel Ogundipe, Ms Blessing Oladunjoye, and Mr Nwakamri Zakari Apollo; Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a Lagos-based NGO, and 176 Nigerians Mr Patrick Elohor and Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, a Lagos-based human rights lawyer.
The presiding judge, Justice Gberi-bé Ouattara, who is the Vice President of the court, adjourned the hearing in the consolidated suit to September 29, 2021, saying that it would give all the lawyers time to organize themselves as there are now a lot of lawyers in the matter. The court would need to manage the time strictly to be able to deal with the matter expeditiously.
Mrs Ogunlana-Nkanga, the lead counsel for Media Rights Agenda (MRA), however, requested the Court to reconsider its decision to adjourn the hearing to September 29, arguing that violation of the rights of her clients arising from the Twitter ban was continuing as well as the risk they face from the Government’s threat to prosecute anyone who uses Twitter.
She noted that some of her clients also use Twitter in their businesses and that the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria was hurting their businesses and causing them economic hardship.
The lawyer to the Nigerian government, Mr Abdullahi Abubakar, said he was not prepared for the hearing today and urged the Court to retain the September 29 date already fixed.
Ruling, Justice Ouattara noted that the Court was sitting for the last time before its vacation and that even if it began hearing the suit, it could not finish the matter on time to deliver its judgment before September as it is not supposed to sit during the vacation period.