THE Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to implement the ECOWAS Court of Justice judgment which opposes the prosecution of Nigerians on the grounds of ‘insulting’ or ‘stalking’ of public officials online.
SERAP explained its call was to ensure that the federal government enforces the ECOWAS court judgment to protect and promote freedom of expression and access to information.
In a statement released on Saturday, April 1 by the SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the body cautioned Buhari against reducing the civic space with the usage of the Cybercrime Act and other “repressive” laws.
The Project lamented the increasing number of crackdown on media houses and freedom of speech.
It stated, “Many Nigerians and media houses continue to face threats simply for speaking out and seeking to peacefully exercise their human rights and carry out their professional duties. This situation is contrary to the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] and the judgments by the ECOWAS Court.”
SERAP believed that Buhari’s immediate enforcement of the ECOWAS court judgment would enhance freedom of the press, and of speech.
“By implementing the judgment, your government will be demonstrating Nigeria’s leadership within the ECOWAS sub-region, and sending a powerful message to other countries to embrace the rule of law and human rights.
“The processes for the sanctions are provided for under the 2015 Supplementary Protocol, the 2012 Supplementary Act on Sanctions, and the 1993 ECOWAS Revised Treaties. The sanctions may include judicial, economic and political sanctions,” it said.
SERAP further advised the need for the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to withdraw all charges of “insulting or stalking public officials online” against activists, critics and journalists, and release those in “illegal” detention.
According to the statement, “SERAP notes that Article 15(4) of the ECOWAS Treaty makes the Judgment of the Court binding on Member States, including Nigeria. Also, Article 19(2) of the 1991 Protocol provides that the decisions of the Court shall be final and immediately enforceable.”
It, however, added that non-compliance with the judgment of the Court can be sanctioned under Article 24 of the Supplementary Protocol of the ECOWAS Court, and Article 77 of the ECOWAS Treaty.
SERAP used the opportunity to urge President Buhari to reverse the N5 million fine the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) imposed on Channels Television over an interview the television station had with the vice-presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Datti Baba-Ahmed.
The ICIR had reported that SERAP condemned the Federal government and the NBC over the fine.
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