SERAP urges Buhari to obey ECOWAS judgment

President Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to enforce the judgment by the ECOWAS Court of Justice on Cybercrime Act.

The group made the call in an open letter addressed to the Presidency and the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.

The judgment, delivered by the court last week in Accra, Ghana, compels the Nigerian government to delete the offence of insulting or stalking public officials online’ from the Cybercrime Act.

SERAP 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.”

Also, he is urged to “direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice 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.”

“Those who have faced unfair prosecutions under the unlawful provisions receive adequate compensation.”

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“It is a victory for many Nigerians who continue to face harassment, intimidation and unfair prosecutions solely for peacefully exercising their human rights online.”

The provisions of section 24 of the Cybercrime Act among others criminalise sending or causing to be sent an “offensive, insulting or annoying” message via a computer system or network.”

However, the offence is punishable by a fine of up to N7,000,000.00 or imprisonment of up to 3 years or both.

SERAP had argued before the ECOWAS Court that, “The Federal Government and several state governments have used the vaguely worded provisions of the Cybercrime Act to trample on the rights to freedom of expression and information of bloggers, journalists, activists, and social media users.”

In its judgment, the court agreed, and ruled that “section 24 of Cybercrime Act is inconsistent and incompatible with Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.”

Thereafter, the court ordered the Federal Government to “amend section 24 of the Cybercrime Prohibition Act following Nigerian obligations under Article 1 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”

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