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SERAP sues Nigerian govt over refusal to publish details of agreement with Twitter

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has instituted a lawsuit against the Federal Government over its refusal to publish the details of its agreement with Twitter.

This was contained in a statement issued on Sunday by the SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare who criticised the FG over “the failure to publish a copy of the agreement recently signed with Twitter, Inc, and the failure to publish the details of the terms and conditions of any such agreement.”

Joined in the suit as Respondent was Alhaji Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture.

After a ban on Twitter services in June 2021, the FG reversed its mandate in January 2022, stating that, “Twitter has agreed to act with a respectful acknowledgement of Nigerian laws and the national culture and history.”

However, the details of the agreement with the social media giants are yet to be published which informed the SERAP suit with number FHC/L/CS/238/2022 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Lagos.

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SERAP implored the court to “direct and compel President Buhari and Alhaji Lai Mohammed to release and widely publish a copy of the agreement with Twitter, and the terms and conditions of any such agreement.

“It is in the interest of justice to grant this application. Publishing the agreement would enable Nigerians to scrutinise it, seek legal remedies as appropriate, and ensure that the conditions for lifting the suspension of Twitter are not used as pretexts to suppress legitimate discourse.

“Publishing the agreement with Twitter would promote transparency, accountability, and help to mitigate threats to Nigerians’ rights online, as well as any interference with online privacy and freedom of expression.”

“Any agreement with social media companies must meet the constitutional requirements of legality, necessity, proportionality, and legitimacy. Secretly agreed terms and conditions will fail these fundamental requirements.”

Furthermore, the rights organisation sought “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari and Alhaji Lai Mohammed to clarify the manner and scope in which the agreement with Twitter will be enforced, and whether the agreement incorporates respect for constitutional and international human rights.

“Alhaji Lai Mohammed responded to our freedom of information request but his response is completely unsatisfactory, as he merely stated that the ‘details are in the public space,’ without sending a copy of the agreement signed with Twitter as requested.

“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 public participation both offline and online.

“The operation and enforcement of the agreement may be based on broadly worded restrictive laws, which may be used as pretexts to suppress legitimate discourse, interfere with online privacy, and deter the exercise of freedom of opinion and expression.”

“The government has a legal obligation to promote universal Internet access, media diversity and independence, as well as 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 fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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