The ECOWAS Court of Justice has ordered the Federal Republic of Nigeria to repeal or amend its law on cybercrime 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.
Delivering judgment on Friday, 10th Jul 2020 in a suit filed by a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) challenging the law, the judge rapporteur for the case, Honorable Justice Januaria T.S. Moreira Costa, held the Nigerian government liable for the violation of the right to freedom of expression by the adoption of Section 24 of its 2015 Cybercrime Act.
The Court however dismissed, for lack of evidence, other claims for the violation of right to freedom of expression sought by the plaintiff, The Incorporated Trustees of Laws and Rights Awareness Initiative.
In the initiating application ECW/CCJ/APP/53/18 filed before the Court on 6 November 2018, the plaintiff through its counsel Mr Chukwudi Ajaegbo, claimed among others, that their members’ freedom of expression on the internet or in the use of computer devices was limited/breached by Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act of the Defendant State.
Nigeria Cybercrime Law
The plaintiff further claimed that nine of its collaborators were arrested and detained in connection with the enforcement of the provision of Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act in violation of Articles 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and 39 of the Nigeria’s Constitution.
The plaintiff argued that Section 24 contained vague concepts that allowed for arbitrary interpretation and application, and that the restrictions it imposes were not reasonably justifiable as they did not pursue legitimate objectives, necessary nor proportional.
On their part, the defendant submitted that Section 24 of its Cybercrime (Prohibition and Prevention) Act 2015 was adopted as a legislative measure to give effect to freedom of expression as provided in Article 9(2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and was in accordance with provisions of Section 39(3) of the country’s 1999 Constitution.
Each party was ordered to bear its own costs
Also on the panel with Justice Costa were Honourable Justices Dupe Atoki (presiding) and Keikura Bangura.