Spaces for Change | S4C participated in the public hearing on the Cybercrime Prevention and Prohibition Bill 2023 conducted by the Senate Joint Committee on Information Communication Technology, Cyber Security, National Security, and Intelligence on November 22, 2023. S4C submitted a legal memorandum to the Joint Committee containing evidence-backed submissions to inform the amendment of repressive provisions of the Cybercrime Bill that both state and non-state actors have repeatedly invoked to repress civic freedoms. Legislative amendment is imperative to strike the right balance between national security measures and individual liberties. 

Anchoring its position on five main grounds, S4C’s memorandum highlighted three provisions that require immediate repeal and amendment, specifically sections 24, 35, and 45 of the Cybercrime Act of 2015.  Section 24 has been routinely misused to target journalists, civic actors, and private citizens, significantly stifling free speech and press freedoms in Nigeria. Incidents tracked on the closing spaces database——revealed a concerning trend, with 242 out of 345 cases of suppressed free speech in Nigeria linked to the exploitation of Section 24 to slam frivolous criminal charges on journalists and activists demanding political accountability and critical reforms in governance. The ambiguity in the definition of cyberstalking within this section has given rise to arbitrary prosecutions, raising constitutional concerns about its compatibility with fundamental rights. These reasons warrant an outright repeal of this section 24.

Furthermore, the S4C advocated for stronger privacy protections and the erasure of the procedural ambiguities arising from the implementation of Sections 35 and 45 respectively. The lack of sufficient checks and balances on security agencies’ broad surveillance and data interception powers is another cause for great concern. Similarly, the lack of clarity surrounding procedures for handling individuals accused under the Act often results in prolonged pretrial detention inconsistent with the democratic principles of presumption of innocence. Amendments are therefore necessary to strengthen legal protections for free speech, and privacy rights and curb abusive surveillance practices.

The hearing featured a public presentation of the memoranda submitted by several civil society organizations, journalists, the private sector, media unions, government ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) such as the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), Office of the Attorney General, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), among others. The Senate Joint Committee acknowledged the submissions and committed to reviewing the highlighted recommendations. The move to amend the Cybercrime Act is coming at a crucial time where palpable threats to free speech and press freedoms perpetrated by state actors and non-state actors are currently at an all-time high.

You might also like

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments