Home Metro Coalition lauds cybercrimes Act amendment, urges FG to safeguard freedom of expression
Metro - March 19, 2024

Coalition lauds cybercrimes Act amendment, urges FG to safeguard freedom of expression

Stanley ihedigbo

Six civil society organisations (CSOs) have called on the Federal Government of Nigeria to take decisive action in further amending the Cybercrimes Act of 2015 to safeguard freedom of expression.

The Cybercrimes Act of 2015 is a landmark legislation enacted to be a framework for the prohibition, prevention, detection, investigation, and prosecution of online crimes in Nigeria, however due to its vague provisions it has become a notorious tool used to restrict freedom of the press and expression, undermining the guarantees of Section 39 of the 1999 constitution.

“We call on the Federal Government of Nigeria to take decisive action in further amending the Act to address these challenges and enact legislation and policy that are rights-respecting with particular interest in Sections 24, 38, 40, and others. We also call for safeguards against possible abuse by more explicitly requiring judicial oversight,” the organisations stated in a signed statement.

Anvarie Tech, FollowTaxes, Gatefield, Paradigm Initiative, ResearcherNG and North-East Humanitarian Hub noted that the Cybercrimes Act of 2015 criminalised online speech with “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.”

Section 24 of the Act, they added, has been used to unlawfully arrest journalists among others for their speech online. One such victim is Chioma Okoli, a young and vibrant mother who faced unjust arrest and persecution for innocently sharing her opinion and experience with a tomato brand on social media. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court further declared Section 24 of Nigeria’s Cybercrime Act vague, arbitrary, and unlawful.

The advocacy efforts, spurred by cases like Chioma’s, have catalysed the recent amendment of the Cybercrimes Act. The amended Section 24 now reads, “any person who knowingly or intentionally sends a message or other matter by means of computer systems or network that is pornographic or he knows to be false, for the purpose of causing a breakdown of law and order, posing a threat to life or causing such messages to be sent.” This amendment among others marks a crucial step forward in protecting freedom of expression in Nigeria, they also underscore the ongoing imperative for comprehensive reform to address the evolving challenges individuals and organisations face in expressing their views online.

Nigeria’s legal framework must uphold all fundamental rights as it continues to evolve with the use of technology. In particular, the right to freedom of expression must stand protected to allow citizens to express their views without fear of persecution and reflects the importance of a vibrant digital space that encourages open dialogue and diverse perspectives. Re-emphasing it’s importance, Shirley Ewang, Senior Advocacy Specialist at Gatefield said, “by taking the necessary steps to amend the Cybercrimes Act fully, the Federal Government of Nigeria can play a vital role in strengthening Nigeria’s legal framework to safeguard the right to freedom of expression. This will create an environment where all individuals can freely express themselves, fostering positive change and upholding the principles of democracy.”

 

 

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