The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice sitting in Abuja has directed the federal government Nigeria to change the provision of its cybercrimes law which violates citizens’ right of expression.
Delivering the judgment of the three-man panel of the court, Justice Januaria Costa asked the federal government to amend the law 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.
A summary of the judgment released by the court’s media unit on Friday stated that the verdict “held the Nigerian government liable for the violation of the right to freedom of expression” with the enactment of section 24 of the Cybercrime Act, 2015.
The said section 24 of the law, criminalises sending from computer messages considered to be among others, “grossly offensive, pornographic or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character or causes any such message or matter to be so sent”, or that the person “knows to be false, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another or causes such a message to be sent”.
A civil society group, Laws and Rights Awareness Initiative, had through its counsel Mr Chukwudi Ajaegbo, filed the suit marked application ECW/CCJ/APP/53/18 on November 6, 2018, claiming among others, that its members’ freedom of expression on the internet or in the use of computer devices was limited/breached by Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act enacted by the Nigerian government.