MRA Challenges Constitutionality of Offence of Criminal Defamation in Court

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Uche Amulu

Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has filed a suit against the Federal Government at the Federal High Court in Abuja challenging the offence of criminal defamation and asking the court to nullify the provisions of the Criminal Code Act, which created the offence.

In the suit filed on the organization’s behalf by Abuja-based lawyer, Mr. Uche Amulu, MRA  is contending that the offence of criminal defamation violates Section 39 of 1999 Constitution, as amended; and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which has been domesticated in Nigeria by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act CAP A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

The suit was brought pursuant to Order 2 Rules 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2019 issued by the Chief Justice of Nigeria pursuant to Section 315 of the 1999 Constitution; Sections 39 and 46 of the Constitution; and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.

Specifically, MRA is seeking the following orders:

  1. A declaration that chapter 33 of the Criminal Code, containing sections 373 to 381, violates its fundamental rights to freedom of expression as guaranteed by section 39 of the Constitution and Article 9 of the African Charter;
  2. A Declaration that Chapter 33 of the Criminal Code, containing sections 373 to  381, is likely to violate its fundamental rights to freedom of expression as guaranteed by sections 39 and 46 of the Constitution and Article 9 of the African Charter; and
  3. A perpetual injunction restraining the Federal Government, its agents, officers and/or its representatives from further enforcing Chapter 33 of the Criminal Code, containing sections 373 to 381, as its provisions violate the extant provisions of Section 39 of the Constitution and Article 9 of the African Charter.

Named as respondent in the suit is the Attorney General of the Federation and Minster of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN).

No date has been fixed for hearing of the suit.