The Centre for Advancement of Civil Liberties and Development, also known as Centre for Liberty (CFL) is very pleased with the ruling of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice 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.
While delivering this very laudable judgement, Honorable Justice Januaria T.S. Moreira Costa affirmed that Nigeria’s adoption of Section 24 of the Cybercrime (Prohibition and Prevention) ACT 2015 is in violation of the right to freedom of expression. This is in line with a recent ruling of the same hallowed Court of Law 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.
These rulings are in line with our 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 these rulings of the ECOWAS Court 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.