Rights Violation: SERAP Urges Buhari to Obey ECOWAS Judgment on Cybercrime Law

Udora Orizu in Abuja

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to enforce the judgment by the ECOWAS Court of Justice compelling the federal government to delete the offence of ‘insulting or stalking public officials online’ from the Cybercrime Act.

The judgement, delivered by the court last week in Accra, Ghana, followed the suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/09/19 brought by SERAP.

The court in its ruling, had ordered the federal government to amend the controversial section 24 of the law which is widely viewed as authorities’ weapon for muzzling citizens’ rights to freedom of expression.

In an open letter dated April 2, 2022, and signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation urged Buhari to urgently send an executive bill to the National Assembly to repeal the unlawful provisions, and reform all laws, which are inconsistent and incompatible with freedom of expression and media freedom.

SERAP also urged him to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, (SAN) to withdraw all pending charges of insulting or stalking public officials online against activists, critics and journalists, and immediately ensure their release from unlawful detention.

The letter, read in part: “The immediate enforcement and implementation of the judgment by your government will be a victory for the rule of law, the right to freedom of expression and media freedom online.

“This will improve citizens’ participation in their own government, and provide an impetus for the anti-corruption fight. By implementing the judgment, your government will be demonstrating Nigeria’s leadership within the ECOWAS sub-region, and sending a powerful message to other countries to embrace the rule of law and human rights.

“With the ECOWAS Court judgment, all federal and state authorities must now stop using the provisions of section 24 of the Cybercrime Act to target, harass, intimidate, arbitrarily arrest and detain and unfairly prosecute social media users, activists, and journalists who express views perceived to be critical of governments.

“Furthermore, non-compliance with the judgment of the Court can be sanctioned under Article 24 of the Supplementary Protocol of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, and Article 77 of the ECOWAS Treaty.

SERAP trusts that you will see compliance with this judgment as a central aspect of the rule of law; an essential stepping stone to constructing a basic institutional framework for legality, constitutionality. We therefore look forward to your positive response and action on the judgment.”

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