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Group commends ECOWAS court’s ruling on Nigeria’s cybercrimes act

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A civil society coalition, yesterday, commended a ruling of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice’s decision on the ‘amendment or repealing’ of Cybercrimes Act in Nigeria.

The Centre for Advancement of Civil Liberties and Development (CFL) agreed with the Community Court’s verdict that the Nigerian Government must either repeal or amend its law on Cybercrimes to align with its obligation under Article 1 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Delivering the judgment on July 10, 2020, Justice Januaria T.S. Moreira Costa said in Nigeria’s adoption of Section 24 of the Cybercrime (Prohibition and Prevention) Act 2015, portions of the law violates Nigerians’ right to freedom of expression.
 
This, it must be recalled, is in line with a recent ruling of the same Court that the September 2017 Internet Shutdown, ordered by the Togolese government during protests, is illegal and constitutes a violation of the right to freedom of expression.

In statement signed by co-conveners: Adebayo Raphael; Deji Adeyanju; Ariyo-Dare Atoye and Asst. Project Officer, Maryam Ahmed, the CFL stated that the rulings are in line with its firm belief that the Protection from Internet Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill, also known as the Social Media Bill, and the Hate Speech Bill, formally christened An Act to Provide for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches and for Other Related Matters, are anti-democratic and constitute a threat to digital freedom and citizens’ right to freedom of expression.

“Considering the fact that Nigeria is a signatory to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, and same has been domesticated in line with the provisions of section 12 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, it is incumbent upon the Nigerian Government to respect the decision of the ECOWAS Court on Digital Freedom.

“It is our hope, now, that the Nigerian Government, particularly federal lawmakers, will be inspired by the ECOWAS Court’s rulings and begin the process of excluding section 24 from the 2015 Cybercrimes Act and also the unfailing withdrawal and permanent interment of the Social Media Bill and Hate Speech Bill,” the group stated.

In the suit filed by the incorporated trustees of Laws and Rights Awareness Initiative, the non-governmental organisation challenged the competence of Nigeria’s Cybercrime (Prohibition and Prevention) Act 2015.

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