Twitter ban: ECOWAS court consolidates four lawsuits against FG

The Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States has issued an order merging all four complaints brought before it by separate applicants against the Federal Republic of Nigeria regarding the ban of the microblogging network, Twitter, in Nigeria. The ECOWAS Court consolidated the cases designated ECW/CCJ/APP/23/21, ECW/CCJ/APP/29/21, ECW/CCJ/APP/24/21, and ECW/CCJ/APP/26/21 in a virtual court session held through Zoom on Friday.

These cases were filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and 196 others, the Media Rights Agency and 8 others, Malcolm Omirhobo, and Patrick Elohor, respectively. The petitioners sought to dispute the respondent’s action in banning Twitter in the country in their complaint against the Federal Republic of Nigeria. After hearing from the attorneys for the four petitioners and the counsel for the respondent, who all agreed to the consolidation, the court issued the order of consolidation. Two groups applied to the court to be admitted as amicus curiae in the case. The first group was the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Organization, which was represented by Ikechukwu Uzoma, a lawyer. The applications were contested by the Federal Government’s Counsel, Abdullahi Abubabkar.

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Abubakar stated that he had already filed a counter-affidavit to the first amicus curiae’s motion and was only now getting the second amici curiae’s application. He also noted that he would need time to determine whether the second amicus was a legal entity with the ability to sue and be sued in Nigeria. In response to Abubakar’s objection, SERAP’s counsel, Femi Falana (SAN), told the court that there is no statute that requires an organization to be registered in Nigeria before it may be an amicus curiae, and that the groups were recognized as international organizations before the ECOWAS Court. The PUNCH reports that an amicus curiae is not a party in a case. Rather, it is a friend of the court that assists the court by offering expertise and insight that has bearing on the issues in the case. Mojirayo Ogunlana-Nkanga, the lawyer for Media Rights Agenda, agreed with the learned silk’s statement and said that the issues at stake in the case were related to the internet, necessitating the participation of other jurisdictions.

The counsels for Malcolm Omirhobo and Patrick Elohor agreed with the learned silk. After hearing the parties’ submissions, the court granted the applications and admitted the groups as amici curiae in the issue. The court also set a hearing for September 29 to allow the parties to prepare for trial.

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