Advocacy group sues Nigerian government over failure to publish Twitter agreement

Twitter returned to the country in January after a seven-month ban.

Afolabi Sotunde / reuters

A legal rights group has sued Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to force his government to publish the agreement that allowed Twitter to return to the West African country last month following a seven-month ban. In June 2021, Nigeria suspended Twitter after the company removed a tweet from President Buhari that threatened punishment for local dissidents. At the time, Twitter said it was “deeply concerned” by the country’s actions, noting it considered an open internet as “an essential human right in modern society.”

On January 13th, Nigeria lifted the ban after the company agreed, among other conditions, to open a local office and work with the government to co-develop a code of conduct. On Sunday, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) filed a lawsuit with the country’s High Court to compel President Buhari and Information Minister Lai Mohammed to publish a copy of that agreement.

“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,” SERAP said. “Any agreement with social media companies must meet the constitutional requirements of legality, necessity, proportionality and legitimacy.”

SERAP said it had attempted to obtain a copy of the agreement through a freedom of information request. It’s suing partly because the government came back with an “unsatisfactory” response to that request. Minister Mohammed allegedly told the group details on the arrangement were already “in the public space,” and did not forward a copy of its terms.

We’ve reached out to Twitter for comment.

As Reuters notes, SERAP was among several groups that went to court to fight Nigeria’s ban of Twitter. The Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States is scheduled to decide whether to rule on that case this week.