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#Twitterban: ECOWAS court merges four suits against FG

The Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States has made an order consolidating all the four cases brought before it by different applicants against the Federal Republic of Nigeria over the ban of the microblogging platform, Twitter in Nigeria.



In a virtual court sitting held via Zoom on Friday, the ECOWAS Court consolidated the cases marked as ECW/CCJ/APP/23/21, ECW/CCJ/APP/29/21, ECW/CCJ/APP/24/21, and ECW/CCJ/APP/26/21.

These cases were filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and 196 others, Media Rights Agency and 8 others, Malcolm Omirhobo, and Patrick Elohor respectively.



In the suit against the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the applicants sought to challenge the action of the respondent in banning Twitter in the country.

The court made the order of consolidation after hearing from the counsels to the four applicants and the counsel to the respondent, who all agreed to the consolidation.



There were two groups before the court seeking to be admitted as amicus curiae in the matter.

The first group was the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Organization and represented by their lawyer, Ikechukwu Uzoma.

Uzoma moved a motion before the court urging the court to admit the group as an amicus curiae in the case.

The second group consisted of Amnesty International, Access Now, and Electronic Frontier Foundation and was represented by their lawyer, Deji Ajare.

Deji Ajare also moved a motion urging the court to admit these organizations as amici curiae in the case.

The Counsel for the Federal Government, Abdullahi Abubabkar, was opposed to the applications.

Abubakar stated that he had already filed a counter-affidavit to the application of the first amicus curiae and was just receiving the application of the second amici curiae.

He also stated that he would need time to verify if the second amicus was a juristic person who could sue and be sued in Nigeria.

SERAP’s lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), in responding to the objection by Abubakar, told the court that there is no law that requires an organisation to be registered in Nigeria before they can be an amicus curiae and that the groups were recognized as International organizations before the ECOWAS Court, which was not a national court.

The lawyer to Media Rights Agenda, Mojirayo Ogunlana-Nkanga, adopted the submission of the learned silk and added that the issues at stake in the matter were related to the internet and the participation of other jurisdictions was therefore necessary.

The counsels to Malcolm Omirhobo and Patrick Elohor also aligned themselves with the view of the learned silk.

The court after hearing the submissions of the parties granted the applications and admitted the organizations as amici curiae in the matter.

The court also adjourned to September 29 for a hearing to enable all parties to organize themselves for trial.

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.



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