A Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court barred the federal government from prosecuting people who’ve used Twitter after the government banned the platform.
The ruling was pending a hearing next month on a lawsuit challenging the government suspension of the social-media network.
The ruling by the sub-regional court on Tuesday stated that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government can’t impose sanctions or do “anything whatsoever to harass, intimidate, arrest or prosecute” Twitter users, according to the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project.
The non-governmental organization has filed a suit against the suspension of Twitter and the criminalization of its users in Nigeria, and a hearing is scheduled for July 6.
Nigeria banned Twitter earlier this month after it deleted a tweet by the president that threatened to punish a separatist group he blames for attacks on government buildings.
The minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami ordered the prosecution of Nigerians found using the social-media network.
SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said in a statement that in a landmark ruling on Tuesday, the ECOWAS court restrained the regime of the President Buhari and its agents from “unlawfully imposing sanctions or doing anything whatsoever to harass, intimidate, arrest or prosecute Twitter or any other social media service provider, media houses, radio, television broadcast stations, the plaintiffs and other Nigerians who are Twitter users, pending the hearing and determination of this suit.”
The court gave the order after hearing arguments from Solicitor to SERAP, Femi Falana, and lawyer to the government Maimuna Shiru.
“The court has listened very well to the objection by Nigeria. The court has this to say. Any interference with Twitter is viewed as interference with human rights, and that will violate human rights.
“Therefore, this court has jurisdiction to hear the case. The court also hereby orders that the application be heard expeditiously. The Nigerian government must take immediate steps to implement the order,” the court ruled.