By Yinka Okeowo
The legal battle over the constitutionality of sections of the Cybercrimes Act 2015 has now moved to the Supreme Court.
Three civil society organisations, namely Media Rights Agenda, Paradigm Initiative and Enough Is Enough Nigeria are pleading with apex court to expunge Sections 24 and 38 of the Cybercrimes Act 2015. The organisations filed a notice of appeal with the Supreme Court on July 31, 2018.
The organizations commenced this journey in May 2016, when, their lawyer Olumide Babalola first filed an action for judicial review of the aforementioned sections of the Act at the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja. On January 20, 2017, the court, however, ruled that the sections were constitutional.
The unfavourable decision at the High Court pushed the organisations to approach the Court of Appeal. The appeal with case number A/L/556/2017 was however decided against the appellants, in a judgement delivered on June 22, 2018. The organisations are now putting their hope in the Supreme Court to ensure Sections 24 and 38 of the Cybercrimes Act 2015 are stricken off the Nigerian law book.
According to the Paradigm Initiative’s Director of Programs, Tope Ogundipe, “It bears repeating here that Section 24 of the Cybercrimes Act is about Cyberstalking and that section has been repeatedly used to harass and persecute journalists and critics. It’s arguably the most dangerous provision against freedom of speech, opinion and inquiry. Sections 38 provides for the duties of a service provider vis-a-vis data retention and contains provisions that we believe are too vague and borderline unconstitutional.”
Ogundipe continued, “While we respect the learned Justices who did not agree with our submissions on the unconstitutionality of the sections, we, however, believe the courts have failed to carefully consider our arguments. In a concurring judgement, one of the justices of the appellate court agreed that the law should be reviewed to whittle-down its arbitrariness. We believe the sections should be removed in their entirety and we hope the Supreme Court would agree with us”
The respondents in the case are the Attorney General of the Federation, the Inspector General of the Police and the National Assembly.