Jun 23, 2017

Lawyer Sues Govt on Section 24, Cybercrimes Act 2015

Barr. Solomon Okedara 
Cybercrime Act 2015: Solomon Okedara V. Attorney General Of The Federation: FHC/L/CS/937/17

The last two years have been marked with cases of arrests, detentions and prosecutions of Nigerians in connection with speeches and expressions made on social media platforms ranging from Facebook posts to Tweets and to blogs. Some of the persons arrested, detained or being prosecuted have only acted within the purview of exercise of their Freedom of Expression as guaranteed in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act, 2015 is the law under which Nigerians have been and are being booked in this regard. The law, in very vague, overbroad and impermissible terms restrict and criminalizes expressions and speeches made via computer systems or networks including social media. Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act, 2015 provides that:

“Any person who, knowingly or intentionally sends a message or other matter by means of computer systems or network that
(a)      Is grossly offensive, pornographic or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character or causes any such message or matter to be so sent; or
(b)     He 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: commits an offence under this Act and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not more than N7,000, 000.00 or imprisonment for a term of not more than 3 years or to both such fine and imprisonment”

Realizing that the statutory provision is cancerous to Freedom of Expression and the need to engender unbridled Freedom of Expression, the applicant –Nigerian Lawyer and Global Research Fellow, International Center for Not for profit Law (ICNL), Washington DC, recently instituted a legal action challenging the constitutionality of Section 24 (1) of the Cybercrime Act, 2015 asking the court to declare the section unconstitutional, null and void.

This is one suit that would excite journalists, bloggers, lawyers, human rights activists, civil society actors as its victory would mean victory not just for over 190 million Nigerians but also for all lovers of democracy the world over.