The ECOWAS Court of Justice, on Monday, ordered the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) to amend Section 24 of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act of 2015.
The court said the modification would meet obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
The case was filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a non-governmental organization.
It was gathered that SERAP had challenged the legality and compatibility of the Section in relation to the guarantees enshrined in Article 9 of the ACHPR and Article 19 of the ICCPR.
The body maintained that it violated the rights to freedom of expression, information, and other rights of human rights defenders, activists, bloggers, journalists, broadcasters, and social media users.
SERAP said since Act was passed, the Nigerian government and its agents have used the provisions to harass, intimidate, arbitrarily arrest and detain and unfairly prosecute the above listed.
The applicant listed twelve high-profile cases of harassment, intimidation, arrest unlawful detention, prosecution, and imprisonment by federal authorities and several states of Nigeria between August 2015 and November 2018.
Responding, the FGN urged the Court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that it was misplaced and unproven and the reliefs sought were not grantable in law
Its lawyers contended that the application was not only pending before the national court for the same reliefs, but that the interpretation of Section 24 of the Act must be submitted to domestic courts and not the ECOWAS Court.
The FGN said the Act was not only in line with Section 45 of Nigeria’s Constitution, but was subjected to the requisite constitutional and legal processes before its passage.
The Federal Government told the court that SERAP was well aware of the processes but never protest its passage.
Furthermore, the respondent argued that the Act was not enacted to muzzle the freedom of expression but to curtail the activities of criminals carried out on the internet.