SERAP Drags Nigeria’s Federal and State Governments to ECOWAS Court over Misapplication of the Cybercrime Act


Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has dragged Nigeria’s Federal and state governments to ECOWAS Court of Justice over their “frequent and repressive application of the Cybercrime Act to harass, intimidate, arbitrarily arrest, detain, and unfairly prosecute anyone found publishing views or facts perceived to be critical of the government at the federal and state levels and government officials.”

In the suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/09/19 filed at the ECOWAS Court in Abuja, SERAP argued that the Federal and several state governments and their agents have trampled on the rights to freedom of expression and information of bloggers, journalists, activists, and social media users through the repressive use and implementation of the vaguely worded provisions of the Cybercrime Act.

The suit filed Femi Falana, SAN counsel to SERAP seeks answer to the ‘fundamental question’ whether the federal and state governments violate the rights to freedom of expression and access to information by using and applying the Cybercrime Act and other similar laws on cyberstalking and sedition to prosecute journalists, bloggers and activists over perceived critical views. SERAP believes that under international freedom of expression jurisprudence they violate these rights.

SERAP, in the suit, is seeking the following reliefs:

  1. .A DECLARATIONthat the actions of the Defendants and its agents and several states of Nigeria in arbitrarily enforcing the provisions of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act 2015 particularly its section 24 to harass, intimidate, arrest, detain, prosecute and imprison journalists, bloggers, and social media users, violate the rights to freedom of expression, information, opinion and privacy and media freedom, guaranteed under Articles 6,8,9 and 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Articles 7,9,17 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party
  2. A DECLARATIONthat the provisions of the Cybercrime (Prohibition Prevention, etc) Act 2015 are entirely inconsistent and incompatible with international human rights standards and infringe on the rights to the freedom of expression, information and opinion guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
  3. A DECLARATIONthat the continuing use and application by the Defendant and its agents and several states in Nigeria of the Cybercrime is illegal and unlawful, as it amounts to breaches of obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights to freedom of expression and information and media freedom
  4. AN ORDERdirecting the Defendant to immediately repeal and/or amend the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act 2015 in line with Nigerian obligations under international human rights law
  5. AN ORDERdirecting the Defendant and/or its agents and several states of Nigeria to provide effective remedies and reparation, including adequate compensation, restitution, satisfaction or guarantees of non-repetition that the Honourable Court may deem fit to grant to human rights defenders, activists bloggers, journalists and other online and off-line media practitioners that have been harassed, intimidated, unlawfully arrested, detained, and unfairly prosecuted by the Defendant
  6. SUCH FURTHERorders the Honorable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances of this suit.

As at press time, no date had been fixed for the hearing of the suit.