SERAP sues Buhari, minister for Twitter pact

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari for “the failure to publish a copy of the agreement that the federal government recently signed with Twitter, Inc, and the failure to publish the details of the terms and conditions”. of such an agreement.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, is joined in the lawsuit as a defendant.
The federal government lifted the suspension of Twitter’s operation in Nigeria in January, saying “Twitter has agreed to act in accordance with Nigerian laws and the national culture and history.”
But in complaint number FHC/L/CS/238/2022 filed last Friday in the Federal High Court in Lagos, SERAP asks the court “to order and compel President Buhari and Alhaji Lai Mohammed to publish and widely post a copy of the agreement with Twitter, and the terms and conditions of such agreement.
In the lawsuit, SERAP argues that: “It is in the interests of justice to grant this request. Publication of the agreement would allow Nigerians to review it, pursue legal remedies where appropriate and ensure that the terms of lifting Twitter’s suspension are not used as a pretext to suppress legitimate speech.
SERAP also argues that “publication of the agreement with Twitter would promote transparency, accountability and help mitigate threats to the rights of Nigerians online, as well as any interference with online privacy and freedom of expression” .
According to SERAP, “any agreement with social media companies must meet the constitutional requirements of legality, necessity, proportionality and legitimacy. Secretly agreed terms and conditions will not meet these basic requirements. »
SERAP is also asking for “an order of mandamus to order and compel President Buhari and Alhaji Lai Mohammed to clarify the manner and scope of the agreement with Twitter, and whether the agreement incorporates respect for constitutional human rights and international”.
SERAP further argues that “the government has a duty to demonstrate that the conditions for lifting Twitter’s suspension would not threaten or violate the online enjoyment of human rights by Nigerians, and that the conditions are in pursuit of a legitimate objective in a democratic society”.
According to SERAP, “Alhaji Lai Mohammed responded to our access to information request, but his response is totally unsatisfactory, as he only stated that “the details are in the public space”, without sending a copy of signed agreement with Twitter as requested.”
The complaint filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, reads in part: “Nigerians are entitled to their human rights, such as the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, privacy, peaceful assembly and association. , as well as offline and online audience participation.
“The operation and enforcement of the Agreement may be based on broadly drafted restrictive laws, which may be used as pretexts to suppress legitimate speech, interfere with online privacy and deter the exercise of freedom of opinion and expression.
“The Federal Government’s statement announcing the lifting of Twitter’s suspension after seven months used overly broad terms and phrases like ‘banned posting’, ‘Nigerian laws’, ‘national culture and history’. These open terms and expressions can be used to suppress the legitimate exercise of human rights online.
“Any agreements with social media companies should not be used as a ploy to tighten government control over internet access, monitor internet activity, or increase online censorship and the government’s ability to restrict the legitimate content online, contrary to standards on freedom of expression and privacy.
“Section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), Section 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Section 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantee the right to hold opinions without interference; and the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of any kind, regardless of frontiers and by any means.
“The Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties impose on the government an obligation to ensure enabling environments for freedom of expression, right to privacy and other human rights, and to protect their exercise.
“While human rights law obliges States to prohibit “advocacy to national, racial or religious hatred which constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”, States must always satisfy the cumulative conditions of legality, necessity, proportionality and legitimacy in any agreement with social media companies.
“The government has a legal obligation to promote universal internet access, diversity and independence of the media, as well as to ensure that any agreements with Twitter and other social media companies are not used to impermissibly restrict these fundamental human rights.
No date has been set for the hearing of the lawsuit.

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