A human rights group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has told the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to immediately and unconditionally release Abubakar Usman, a blogger arrested for allegedly cyber stalking Mr. Ibrahim Magu, the Commission’s Chairman. It also threatened to legally challenge the Cyber Crime Act, which it considers a hindrance to free speech.
The demand for Usman’s release and the threat of a law suit to challenge the Cyber Crime Act was contained in a statement issued by the group on Tuesday. Signed by Adetokunbo Mumuni, SERAP’s Executive Director, the group described EFCC’s action as an abridgement of the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression.
“This action by the EFCC is unequivocally contrary to both Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.
“The EFCC must now immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Usman and drop all charges against him,” the group stated.
The expression of freedom of expression, SERAP added, should be actively encouraged by all public institutions as it could assist in the fight against corruption.
“The EFCC and indeed all public institutions should proactively encourage freedom of expression to enhance their ability to fight corruption, but also to maintain the sanctity of the constitution and Nigeria’s international obligations and commitments.
“There are many whistle blowers out there that can be of immense support to anti-corruption agencies and contribute to the effective discharge of their statutory mandates to prevent and combat corruption,” SERAP added.
It vowed to take legal action to challenge the constitutionality of the Cyber Crime Act, which it considers a tool for the curtailment of the enjoyment of Nigerians’ the right to freedom of expression.
“In 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Committee issued guidance to states parties, including Nigeria, on their free speech obligations under Article 19 that emphasized the high value that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights places upon uninhibited expression in circumstances of public debate concerning public figures in the political domain and public institutions,” SERAP said.