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Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria, Paradigm Initiative lead legal action against telcos and government

Civil rights group Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria, in co-ordination with Paradigm Initiative (PIN) and Media Rights Agenda (MRA), is taking legal action against telecommunications companies over the blockage of Twitter.

In a statement released to the media, EIE Nigeria as the sole applicant coordinating with other organisations, have instituted a class action suit against MTN, Airtel, Globacom and 9mobile for an enforcement of fundamental rights.

In June the Nigerian government indefinitely suspended Twitter’s activities in the country days after the social network removed a post from President Muhammadu Buhari which threatened to punish regional secessionists.

In the post (1 June 2021), Buhari referred to the 1967 to 1970 Nigerian civil war and to treating those misbehaving “in the language they understand.”

Soon after Paradigm Initiative released a statement, which read: “The directive by the Nigerian government is at its core, an abuse of the rights of Nigerians not just to freedom of expression. But many other rights guaranteed in the Nigerian 1999 Constitution (as amended), the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

The organisation, on behalf of a lobby group, penned an open letter to Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari and his administration to rescind a decision to ban Twitter enforced on 4 June.

The lobby group represented 36 local and international organisations such as Access Now, Africa Internet Rights Alliance, Internet Society Nigeria, Kathleen Ndongmo, Open Internet for Democracy Fellow (Member, Netrights Africa Coalition and the Africa Digital Rights Network - ADRN) and Witness Africa.

Two months on and Khadijah El-Usman, Program Officer, Anglophone-West Africa, Paradigm Initiative, released a new statement and said:“It was evident that the government did not have the sole responsibility of the disregard for human rights. A directive not rooted in Law cannot be a basis for the abuse of the human rights of millions of Nigerians. It is to this effect that EIE Nigeria as the sole applicant coordinating with other organisations including Paradigm Initiative and Media Rights Agenda, have instituted a class action suit against Telecommunications companies MTN, Airtel, Globacom and 9mobile for an enforcement of fundamental rights. “

According to PIN, the suit calls for a declaration that the respondents blockage of twitter access was unlawful, unconstitutional and against the rights to freedom of expression and an injunction restraining all respondents from restraining blocking or interfering with Twitter and any other social media platform. These are all pursuant to rights assured by the Nigerian Constitution and the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights.

El-Usman added that PIN has also filed a suit against the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the Attorney General and Federal Government, to declare – among others - the suspension of Twitter a violation of freedom of expression and a perpetual injunction to restraining respondents, their agents, privies and/or representatives from restricting access or taking any action that prevents access to Twitter in Nigeria.

According to El-Usman the matter will be heard on 25 October 2021.

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