BREAKING: ECOWAS COURT TO HEAR SUIT ON TWITTER BAN TODAY

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice is about now hearing the suit filed by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) challenging the “suspension” of micro-blogging site, Twitter by the Federal Government.

In a tweet monitored by CITY LAWYER, SERAP stated that the government had filed an objection against the suit, adding that SERAP would take steps to respond to the objection.

Said SERAP: “BREAKING: Twitter ban: The Nigerian government this evening served us a notice of preliminary objection and counter-affidavit to the ECOWAS suit by SERAP and 176 Nigerians.

“Since the suit is coming up tomorrow [22 June 2021], we are filing our response electronically tonight.”

Several commentators commended SERAP for its decision to challenge the ban, even as one Cletus Nwafor @CletusNwafor said: “#TwitterBaninNigeria is a human rights crisis that must be resisted. #StoptheNigerianGovt #Resist #KeepitOn.”

Many individuals and organisations including the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) have lampooned the ban on Twitter, even as many have continued to access the site through virtual private network (VPN).

Among the plaintiffs are the Registered Trustees of SERAP as well as former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili and co-founder of the #BringBackOurGirls movement, Aisha Yesufu.

The court, in a notice to the plaintiffs’ counsel, Femi Falana (SAN) and respondent’s counsel Mrs. Maimuna Lami Shiru, stated that the hearing of an application for an injunction would be virtual.

“Notice is hereby given that this application has been fixed for hearing of the application for Interim Measure on June 22, 2021, at 10:00 AM and will be heard on that day if the business of the court permits or otherwise on some adjourned day of which you may not receive further notice,” the court stated.

In the suit numbered ECW/CCJ/APP/23/21, SERAP is seeking “An order of interim injunction restraining the Federal Government from implementing its suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, and subjecting anyone including media houses, broadcast stations using Twitter in Nigeria, to harassment, intimidation, arrest and criminal prosecution, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.”

SREAP asserts that “if this application is not urgently granted, the Federal Government will continue to arbitrarily suspend Twitter and threaten to impose criminal and other sanctions on Nigerians, telecommunication companies, media houses, broadcast stations and other people using Twitter in Nigeria, the perpetual order sought in this suit might be rendered nugatory.”

“The suspension of Twitter is aimed at intimidating and stopping Nigerians from using Twitter and other social media platforms to assess government policies, expose corruption, and criticise acts of official impunity by the agents of the Federal Government,” added SERAP.

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NBA TRUSTEES TO HEAR ADESINA’S ELECTION PETITION TODAY

EMEKA NWADIOKE

There are strong indications that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Board of Trustees (BOT) will today begin hearing in the petition filed by Mr. Dele Adesina SAN against the declaration of Mr. Olumide Akpata as winner of the recent NBA National Officers Elections.

It is expected that the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) will appear before the panel to present its case against Adesina’s petition. A member of the committee told CITY LAWYER at the weekend that the board was scheduled to sit on the petition today, saying: “BOT is meeting on Monday. We are expected to formally adopt our response before them.”

It is recalled that Adesina had petitioned the electoral committee alleging irregularities and demanding a cancellation of the poll. In a letter to ECNBA Chairman dated 30th July, 2020 and personally signed by him, Adesina stated that the voters’ list “contained grave errors of omission and commission,” listing some of the errors as:

  1. Names of purported Lawyers without Branches ascribed to them from Serial Number 25171 to 29635;
  2. Names of Lawyers under the subheading “International Diaspora” from Serial Number 12182 to 12268. A clear violation of the provisions of the Constitution of the NBA;
  3. Inflation of the List of some Branches. For instance, Obollo-Afor Branch on the Final List for Verification had only 39 names on the List from Serial Number 30424 to 30462. Strangely, this increased to 662 on the Verified List;
  4. Deletion of Names of Members removed from the Final List;
  1. Many Members names found their way to Branches other than their own Branch.

He however queried why it was NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN that responded to his complaint as against the committee. He then petitioned the trustees.

In a petition dated 2nd August, 2020 and addressed to BOT Chairman, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba SAN, Adesina stated that he “had the privilege of joining others to build the NBA before some of the god-fathers who are plunging the NBA into avoidable crisis today ever became involved in the affairs of the Association.”

Other members of the BOT are former NBA Presidents Joseph Bodunrin Daudu (SAN) and Augustine Alegeh (SAN), a former NBA General Secretary Obafemi Adewale and longstanding Bar Leader, Hajia Fatima Kwaku. Instructively, while Daudu threw his weight behind Adesina in the run-up to the election, Adewale endorsed Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN as the best man for the job. On his part, though Alegeh did not openly align with Akpata, he is said to be perhaps his most influential backer, even as he congratulated the NBA President-elect even before he was officially decalred as a winner of the election. 

Citing alleged infractions of the NBA Constitution 2015 (as amended), the erstwhile presidential candidate said: “Our I.C.T. Consultants informed us that though the voting site might have appeared credible on the surface as a decoy, it is apparent to state that the data uploaded to the site was programmed and preconfigured to achieve a premeditated result in an obvious case of data diddling.”

According to Adesina, “it is apparent to state that the data uploaded to the site was programmed and preconfigured to achieve a premeditated result in an obvious case of data diddling.”

In the petition titled “Re: The Nigerian Bar Association 2020 National Officers Election: A case of classical electronic fraud, illegal and unconstitutional process: call for cancellation and a new election conducted for the Nigerian Bar Association (nba)” and copied to all the trustees and NBA past presidents, Adesina warned that “The time has come to regain the integrity of the Nigerian Bar Association by putting an end to unconstitutional and fraudulent elections in our Association.”

It is recalled that the Chairman of the Mr. Tawo Eja Tawo SAN had on July 31, 2020 declared Akpata as winner of the NBA presidential election held on July 29 or 30, 2020.

According to the ECNBA Chairman, Akpata polled 9,891 or 54.3 per cent votes to beat his closest rival, Ajibade who garnered 4,328 (23.8 per cent) votes. Adesina polled 3,982 votes (21.9 per cent) to bring up the rear.  Adesina had a few hours to the end of the election demanded cancellation of the poll, saying it was fraught with infractions. The election was held via ElectionBuddy, an electronic voting software deployed by Edmonton, Canada based firm.

Though a total of 29,636 lawyers were accredited for the election, only 18,256 or 62 per cent of the voters succeeded in casting their ballots.

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