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Published On: Wed, Feb 16th, 2022

ECOWAS Court Dismisses FG Motion To Stop Judgement On Ban Of Twitter

Chief (Barr.) Malcolm Omirhobo (Sitting right) with his group of Lawyers

LAGOS FEBRUARY 16TH (URHOBOBOTODAY)-The ECOWAS Court of Justice, today dismissed the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s motion to strike out the Consolidated  Suit against it on the ban of Twitter, as lacking in foundation .

The Federal Government of Nigeria suspended Twitter operation in Nigeria on June 4, 2021  two days after a controversial tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari was deleted by Twitter. The Nigerian Government also accused Twitter of sponsoring dissent in the country.

Following the Federal Government’s ban on Twitter, Chief Malcolm Emokiniovo Omirhobo approached the ECOWAS COURT OF JUSTICE, in suit ECW/CCJ/APP/26/21, challenging the ban as a violation of his fundamental rights to freedom of expression, speach and association and those of the Nigerian public . . He prayed the Court inter alia for aggravated and excemplary damages in the sum.of N5000,000.00 (Fifty Million Naria ) against the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The case came up for hearing and was consolidated with other Suits with similar cause of action in

the Consolidated Suit of

ECW/CCJ/APP/23/21

ECW/CCJ/APP/24/21

ECW/CCJ/APP/26/21

ECW/CCJ/APP/29/21

Registered Trustees of the Social Economic Rights & Accountability Project (SERAP)& 12 Ors

 

Vs

 

FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA.

 

After  parties  argued their cases on the merit ,  the case was  adjourned for judgement . While parties were waiting for judgement , the Federal Republic of Nigeria   lifted the suspension on Twitter operation in Nigeria, on January 13, 2022,  noting  that Twitter has agreed to set “a legal entity in Nigeria during the first quarter of 2022

and has also agreed to pay taxes locally and to  cooperate with the Nigerian Government to regulate content and harmful tweets.

On the strength of the above, the Federal Republic of Nigeria  filed a Motion, on January 26th, 2022,  by which it  sought to strike out the case  on the ground that it has been overtaken by events and now an academic exercise.

Franca O. Abubokhale Esq   represented Chief Malcolm Emokiniovo Omirhobo,  as the 3rd Applicant today when the said motion came up for hearing . At the opening of the Court, the Justices questioned the purpose the Defendant wished to achieve with the Motion. However, the Court allowed the Defendant and Counsel for the Plaintiffs in the to be  heard .  Franca O. Abubokhale Esq. argued on behalf of Chief Malcolm Omirhobo and submitted that the Defendant’s motion is ridiculous on the ground that the Consolidated Substantive Suit had been heard on its merit and Judgment was fixed for delivery before the Defendant filed the Motion. Also, that the main issue before the Court is violation of the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, speech and association of the Plaintiff by the Defendant through Twitter ban. Finally, the Counsel urged that the Defendant’s motion be dismissed with cost. Other Counsel in the Consolidated Suit, made similar submissions.

The Court went for a short recess. Meanwhile, before going on recess, the Justices asked the Defendant’s counsel, that if there is an agreement between the Defendant and Twitter, why is it not presented before the Court? The Court explained that the agreement is very vital in the Suit. The Defendant’s counsel in response said that the agreement is of judicial notice. The Court did not agree with the submission of the Defendant’s counsel. Franca O. Abubokhale Esq. submitted that he who alleged the existence of any fact, must prove it by evidence and that failure of the Defendant to present the agreement between itself and Twitter before the Court makes the Defendant’s motion liable to be dismissed with cost. On resumption, the Court dismissed the Defendant’s motion on the ground that it lacks substance/foundation.

The Plaintiffs were directed to make cost notes and submit same at the Court Registry, as consequence for the Defendant’s dismissed motion.

The Consolidated Suit on Twitter ban has been adjourned to May 10th, 2022 for Judgement.

 

 

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