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Cybercrime Act: Stop prosecuting Nigerians for ‘insulting public officials’, SERAP tells Buhari

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has urged the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to “enforce the judgment by the ECOWAS Court of Justice compelling his regime to delete the offence of ‘insulting or stalking public officials online’ from the Cybercrime Act.”

SERAP also 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.

The human rights group also urged him to “direct Abubakar Malami, SAN 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.”

SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, who made the call in a statement on Sunday, said the judgment, delivered by the court last week in Accra, Ghana followed the suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/09/19 brought by SERAP.

In an open letter dated 2 April 2022 and signed by Oluwadare, the group said “This judgment is a victory for many Nigerians who continue to face harassment, intimidation, and unfair prosecutions solely for peacefully exercising their human rights online.”

SERAP also urged Buhari to ensure that “those who have faced unfair prosecutions under the unlawful provisions receive adequate compensation.”

The letter which was copied to Malami., 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.

“SERAP notes that Article 15(4) of the ECOWAS Treaty makes the Judgment of the Court binding on Member States, including Nigeria. Also, Article 19(2) of the 1991 Protocol provides that the decisions of the Court shall be final and immediately enforceable.

“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 the legality, constitutionality. We, therefore, look forward to your positive response and action on the judgment.”

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