Lawsuit filed at ECOWAS courtroom in Abuja requires an interim injunction restraining authorities from implementing suspension.

Dozens of Nigerians and an area rights group have filed a lawsuit at a regional courtroom searching for to carry the government’s ban on Twitter, describing the choice to droop the massively in style social media platform’s operations as an try to silence criticism of the federal government.

Authorities introduced the ban on Friday, two days after Twitter eliminated a put up from President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish regional secessionists.

The federal government’s transfer prompted an immediate backlash amongst social media customers and human rights activists, with #NigeriaTwitterBan and #KeepitOn trending on the platform as Nigerians used digital non-public networks to entry the location. The federal government has mentioned those that continued to make use of Twitter could be prosecuted.

On Tuesday, the Socio-Financial Rights and Accountability Mission (SERAP), an area rights group, and 176 Nigerians filed the lawsuit on the Financial Group of West African States Group Courtroom of Justice in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, calling for an interim injunction restraining authorities from implementing the ban.

“The suspension of Twitter is geared toward intimidating and stopping Nigerians from utilizing Twitter to evaluate authorities insurance policies, expose corruption, and criticize acts of official impunity by the brokers of the Federal Authorities,” the go well with learn, in keeping with the group.

Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP’s deputy director, mentioned the ban “negatively impacted hundreds of thousands of Nigerians who stick with it their each day companies and operational actions on Twitter,” calling it “closing proof of shrinking civil house in Nigeria and the intention of presidency to stifle any dissenting voice”.

‘Erratic choice’

In 2021, Nigeria ranked a hundred and twentieth out of 180 international locations within the Reporters With out Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index.

Africa’s most populous nation has been celebrated as one of many few on the continent attracting funding into its tech ecosystem however was not too long ago shunned when Twitter selected neighbouring Ghana for its first African headquarters.

Gbenga Sesan, govt director of the Paradigm Initiative, a pan-African social enterprise engaged on digital inclusion and rights, told Al Jazeera the suspension of Twitter despatched the fallacious sign to overseas traders, including that small companies utilizing Twitter as a supply of livelihood in Nigeria could be affected.

“Companies in Nigeria use digital media to succeed in clients, expose their manufacturers and talk with varied stakeholders. That may undoubtedly be affected by this erratic choice,” he mentioned.

Data minister Lai Mohammed informed the Thomson Reuters Basis that the suspension had nothing to do with Buhari’s tweet being deleted, however reasonably with “separatists inciting violence” on-line.

“Regulating social media shouldn’t be about stifling press freedom. All we’re speaking about is the accountable use of those platforms,” mentioned Mohammed, including that Fb, WhatsApp and YouTube have been nonetheless accessible.

Nigeria joined international locations equivalent to China, North Korea and Iran in issuing a ban on Twitter, whereas Uganda, Turkey and Egypt have suspended the app throughout elections or political unrest.

The US-based firm mentioned in a press release that it was “deeply involved” as entry to the web was “a vital human proper in trendy society” and it “will work to revive entry for all these in Nigeria who depend on Twitter to speak”.