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Obey ECOWAS Judgement, SERAP Tells Buhari

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “enforce the judgement by the ECOWAS Court of Justice compelling your government to delete the offence of ‘insulting or stalking public officials online’ from the Cybercrime Act.”
SERAP urged him to “urgently send an executive bill to the National Assembly to repeal the unlawful provisions, and reform all laws, which are inconsistent and incompatible with freedom of expression and media freedom.”
The judgement, delivered by the court last week in Accra, Ghana followed the suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/09/19 brought by SERAP.
SERAP also urged him to “direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice,Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN to withdraw all pending charges of ‘insulting or stalking public officials online’ against activists, critics and journalists, and immediately ensure their release from unlawful detention.”
SERAP urged him to ensure that “those who have faced unfair prosecutions under the unlawful provisions receive adequate compensation.”
In the open letter dated April 2, 2022, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said, “This judgement is a victory for many Nigerians who continue to face harassment, intimidation and unfair prosecutions solely for peacefully exercising their human rights online.”
The provisions of Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act, among others, criminalise sending or causing to be sent an “offensive, insulting or annoying message via a computer system or network.”
The offence is punishable, including by a fine of up to N7,000,000.00 or imprisonment of up to three years or both.
SERAP had argued before the ECOWAS Court that, “The Federal Government and several state governments have used the vaguely worded provisions of the Cybercrime Act to trample on the rights to freedom of expression and information of bloggers, journalists, activists, and social media users.”
In its judgement, the court agreed, and ruled that “Section 24 of Cybercrime Act is inconsistent and incompatible with Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.”
The court then ordered the Federal Government to “amend section 24 of the Cybercrime Prohibition Act in accordance with Nigerian obligations under Article 1 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”
The letter, read in part: “The immediate enforcement and implementation of the judgement by your government will be a victory for the rule of law, the right to freedom of expression and media freedom online. This will improve citizens’ participation in their own government, and provide an impetus for the anti-corruption fight.
“By implementing the judgement, 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.
“With the ECOWAS Court judgement, all federal and state authorities must now stop using the provisions of section 24 of the Cybercrime Act to target, harass, intimidate, arbitrarily arrest and detain and unfairly prosecute social media users, activists, and journalists who express views perceived to be critical of governments.
“SERAP notes that Article 15(4) of the ECOWAS Treaty makes the Judgement 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.
“Furthermore, non-compliance with the judgement of the court can be sanctioned under Article 24 of the Supplementary Protocol of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, and Article 77 of the ECOWAS Treaty.
“SERAP trusts that you will see compliance with this judgement as a central aspect of the rule of law; an essential stepping stone to constructing a basic institutional framework for legality, constitutionality. We, therefore, look forward to your positive response and action on the judgement.
“The judgement read by Hon. Justice Gberi-De Quattara (presiding judge), Hon. Justice Dupe Atoki (member) and Hon. Justice Keikura Bangura (member), chronicled details of Nigerian government officials using the Cybercrime Act, particularly its Section 24 as a pretext to harass, intimidate, detain, prosecute and imprison activists, journalists, bloggers, and social media users.
“In its judgement, the ECOWAS Court held that ‘The court has the jurisdiction to hear and determine the suit. In a plethora of decisions, the court has upheld that the mere allegation of human rights violations is sufficient to invoke this human rights mandate pursuant to Article 9 (4) of the Supplementary Protocol.’
“In view of the fact that this application is premised on human rights violations pursuant to Article 9(4) of the supplementary protocol, the court holds that it has jurisdiction to hear and determine the suit.
“According to the ECOWAS Court, ‘The allegation of SERAP before the Court for determination on merit is whether the provision of the Cybercrime Act has violated the right to freedom of expression, information, opinion, and privacy in contravention of Article 9(1) and (2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.’
“The ECOWAS Court then stated that, ‘Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act is not in conformity with Article 9 of the African Charter and Article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. As for reparation, Nigerian Government is ordered to amend Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act, in accordance with the obligations under Article 1 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights.’
“SERAP also notes that by virtue of Article 24(4) of the Protocol A/P.1/7/91 relating to the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice as amended by the Supplementary Protocol A/SP.1/01/05 in January, 2005, every member state of the Economic Community of West African States is required to designate a National Authority for the enforcement of the judgements of the Community Court of Justice.”
“Pursuant to the provisions of the article 24 of the Protocol of the Community Court, the Federal Government decided in 2014 to designate the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice as the Competent National Authority for the enforcement of the decisions of the court in Nigeria.”
The letter was copied to Mr Malami.

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Publish Details Of Parties’ Financial Transactions, SERAP Tasks INEC

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, to publish the reports of parties’ accounts and balance sheets.
The body also wants details of the guidelines and steps being taken to prevent vote buying in the forthcoming elections and to prosecute vote buyers and other electoral offenders.
In a letter, yesterday, SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, noted that citizens have the right to know about the accounts and financial transactions of parties.
He said transparency and accountability would curb the influence of money in politics, promote a level playing field, and remove the risks to the independence of political actors and would-be public office holders.
The organisation insisted it is both immoral and illegal to pay citizens to vote for a particular political party or standard-bearer.
“Unpunished cases of vote buying would continue to undermine good governance, the rule of law, moral values, as well as hinder citizens’ participation in elections”, it said.
SERAP told INEC that when candidates buy votes, there are possibilities that they will disregard for democratic rules.
“Vote buying and related electoral offences encourage poor governance and weaken citizens’ capacity to hold their elected officials accountable for their actions.”
SERAP charged the electoral umpire to collaborate with anti-corruption agencies to ensure the effective prosecution of any outstanding cases of vote buying and related electoral offences.
The letter urged INEC to act within 14 days or face legal actions that would compel it to comply with the request.

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RSG Recommits To Engaging Youth Positively

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The Rivers State Government has said it was committed to engaging youths positively and empowering them.
The State Chief Executive, Chief Nyesom Wike, stated this during the opening ceremony of the Uplifting African Youth Through Basketball Programme in Port Harcourt, last Friday.
Represented by his Deputy, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, Wike said the issues of youths and young adults were very important to his administration, while expressing delight that youths were being built up with critical life skills in sports, communication, and entrepreneurial leadership skills needed for Rivers State, Nigeria, and Africa.
“This administration is very interested in youth engagements, we want to make sure that our youths are very inclusive, participate, play their roles, and be well mentored and well-motivated to be able to fulfill all of their potentials in life, educationally, in sports, morally and so we are here to support”, the governor stressed.
The governor expressed gratitude to the leader of the Organised Basketball Network (OBN) and his team, for their efforts and the support of the US Consulate, while urging them to visit the Real Madrid Football Academy in Port Harcourt, to appreciate the efforts of the state government in the area of youth engagement.
The youth friendly governor, said “I want to encourage our youths that as you walk together in the next two days, you would learn how to be tolerant with one another and to know that gender based violence is totally not acceptable and that it is inhumane, I know it is just two days, but a lot can be achieved that can be life time impactful”.
In her remarks, the United States Consulate’s Deputy Public Affairs Officer, Jennifer Foltz said the United States and Nigeria have very special and close relationship, adding that the Consulate feels this was the right time to do a sports programme.
“Sports diplomacy is part of what we do, it is part of some ways we build stronger relationships between our two countries, sports brings people together, and even if you do not speak the same language you can still play sports together”, Foltz stressed.
Earlier, the leader of the Organised Basketball Network, Obinna Ekezie said OBN was a platform founded for the development of grassroots basketball in Nigeria and Africa with a mission to develop the next generation of world-class African student athletes and consistently create opportunities to help them advance their careers overseas, through basketball scholarship.
He said the project uplifting African youths was a project to provide inclusion and opportunities for under privileged talented African youths to learn important life skills through basketball.

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PDP Assembly, Reps Candidates Emerge In Rivers

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Candidates for the House of Representatives and House of Assembly have emerged following the conduct of primaries by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State, yesterday.
According to the official results, Solomon Bob emerged the party’s candidate for Abua/Odual/Ahoada East Federal Constituency while Victor Obuzor emerged the candidate for Ahoada West/Ogba/Egbema Federal Constituency.
Also, Awaji Inombek Abiante won the ticket for Andoni/Opobo Federal Constituency, just as Boma Goodhead returned elected for the Asari-Toru/Akuku-Toru Federal Constituency while Cyril Godwin Hart won Degema/Bonny Federal Constituency ticket.
The results further show that Felix Nwaeke emerged the candidate of the PDP for Eleme/Tai/Oyigbo Federal Constituency, with Boniface Emerengwa emerging winner for Ikwerre/Emohua Federal Constituency.
In the same vein, Kelechi Nwogu cruised to victory as the candidate for Etche/Omuma Federal Constituency while Dumnamene Dekor won Khana/Gokana Federal Constituency ticket.
Similarly, Kingsley Ogundu Chinda emerged the House of Representatives candidate for Obio/Akpor Federal Constituency, while Alabo Victor Tamunomiekaye won Okrika/Ogu/Bolo Federal Constituency ticket.
Chima Boms won Port Harcourt Federal Constituency 2 while Barrister Blessing Amadi is the winner of the primary election for Port HarcourtFederal Constituency 1.
For the Rivers State House of Assembly primary, Hon Dominic Iderima picked the ticket for Abua/Odual, Mrs Queen Williams picked the ticket for Ahoada East 1,Rt Hon Ehe Edison emerged the candidate for Ahoada East 2, while Hon Sokari Goodboy Sokari cruised to victory for Ahoada West.
Hon Major Jack won the ticket for Akuku-Toru 1, Hon Opuende Lolo Isaiah is the candidate for Akuku-Toru 2, Hon Ofiks Kabangs Christopher grabbed the ticket to represent Andoni, whileHon Tekena Wellington Granville got the ticket for Asari-Toru 1.
Also, a serving member, Enemi Alabo George easily won the ticket for Asari-Toru 2, just as Hon Victor Oko Jumbo got the nod to represent Bonny, while Hon Abbey Peter emerged the candidate for Degema.
Hon Igwe Obey Aforji emerged the PDP candidate for Eleme, Emohua will be represented by Mrs Justina Emeji, Hon Onwuka Ignatiuswon the ticket to represent Etche 1, while Hon Chimezie Nwankwor is the candidate for Etche 2.
The present member representing Gokana, Hon Dumle Maol, will retain his ticket for the seat, Prince Lemchi Nyeche emerged the candidate for Ikwerre 1, Mrs Barile Nwakoh won the ticket for Khana1, while Barrister Dinebari Loolo got the ticket for Khana 2.
In Obio/Akpor1, Hon Amaewhule Martin Chike was returned, just as Mrs Emilia Lucky Amadi emerged the candidate for Obio/Akpor 2, and Frankline Nwabochi will fly PDP flag for Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni1.
In the same token, Mrs Nkemuika Ezekwe will fight for Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni2 seat on the platform of the PDP, Davids Arnold Okobiriari won the ticket for Ogu/Bolo, a serving member, Somiari Steward Linda will return in Okrika, while Nwankwo Sylvanus emerged for Omuma seat.
Orubienimigha Adolphus grabbed the ticket for Opobo/Nkoro,Hon Gerald Oforji emerged for Oyigbo, Solomon Wami won the ticket for Port Harcourt1,Hon Tonye Smart Adoki will return for Port Harcourt2, Hon Azeru Opara emerged for Port Harcourt3, and Ngbar Bernard Baridamue won the ticket for Tai.

By: Nelson Chukwudi & Reward Akwu

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