FG promises to amend Cybercrime Act

SERAP condemns threats against journalists
The Federal Government has vowed to pursue the amendment of the Cybercrime Act, which many lawyers, journalists and activists have described as repressive, unconstitutional and illegal.

Head, Cybercrimes Prosecution Unit, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Terlumun George Tyendezwa, stated this in Lagos yesterday during an interactive session with the media on the ‘Constitutionality and Legality of the Cybercrime Act in Nigeria.”

The session, which was organised by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), in collaboration with the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), United States (U.S.), noted that the Cybercrime Act is not perfect, hence the need for stakeholders’ engagement.

Tyendezwa said: “From the point of passage, we as the operators, knew there were things that needed to be changed. We are presently collating memoranda on amendment of the Act. But amendment takes time and costs money.”

However, SERAP and other stakeholders in human rights have condemned the recent threats, harassment and intimidations faced by journalists and bloggers in the country.

They also advocated for constitution amendment, especially the Cybercrime Act, to ensure freedom of speech and respect for the rights of the citizens. Director of SERAP, Mr. Adetokunbo Mumuni, who spoke at the session, said since the passage of Cybercrime Act in 2015, journalists, media practitioners, including bloggers, among others, had faced threats, harassment and intimidation.

“We call on government to respect freedom of expression and stop harassing journalists. We call on all relevant stakeholders to pay attention to the safety of journalists and respect press freedom for the consolidation of the democratic process in Nigeria,” he said.

The group, comprising lawyers, journalists, activists and other stakeholders, unanimously declared Nigeria’s Cybercrime Act as “repressive, oppressive and unconstitutional,” saying that it should immediately be repealed or dropped, as many of its provisions blatantly offend the rights to freedom of expression, association and media freedom.

It also called on the next Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to prioritise challenging in court the constitutionality and legality of the Cybercrimes Act, which is antithetical to respect for freedom of expression, including online and the government’s commitment to fight grand corruption.

Earlier, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), while presenting a paper titled “The Constitutionality and Legality of the Cybercrimes Act in Nigeria,” said: “The supremacy of the constitution over every other law is an immutable principle of Nigerian constitutional law derived from the provisions of Section 1 (3) of the Constitution itself.

“Worse still, the Cybercrime Act makes no effort to give certainty to the meanings of any of the words used in its Section 24 (1) by defining them anywhere in the Act, which means that only judicial definitions can be given to those words in any case where a person is charged with an offence under Section 24 (1) of the Act.”