Court quashes Ebonyi Cybercrimes law, says it’s unconstitutional
By Nweze Anaga, Abakaliki
Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital yesterday quashed Ebonyi Cybercrimes Law of No 12, 2021, stressing that it was unconstitutional, while rendering it null and void.
The ruling followed a suit filed by one Pascal Etu against Ebonyi State Government over the law he described as unconstitutional.
Ebonyi State government had in September 2021 enacted the law to checkmate hate speech on social and conventional media and other related editorial content felt to be against the present regime.
It was alleged that the controversial law was enacted without public hearing and other legislative procedures were not followed before assenting to it.
Earlier this year, Etu was arrested for allegedly flouting the law, so also was the Spokesperson of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Nwoba Chika Nwoba, and a social critique, Godfrey Chikwere, who were remanded in custody pending the determination of the allegations against them.
It was gathered that Nwoba and others were later granted bail by the court following the agitation by some individuals and Human Right organisations.
While the case against Etu was on at the State High Court, he instituted the matter against the state government and four others at the Federal High Court in Abakaliki, challenging the constitutionality of the law.
In the suit, FCAI/CS/6/2022, Etu through his lawyers prayed the court to declare that the Ebonyi State House of Assembly has no power to make such laws.
He also argued that the law was unconstitutional and should be declared null and void.
Ruling on the matter, the Presiding Judge, Justice Fatun Riman, granted the prayers of the plaintiff.
The judge, while declaring the Ebonyi Cybercrimes Law 2021 unconstitutional, null and void, also issued an order of injunction restraining the Ebonyi State government from continuing to enforce the law.
Justice Riman further held that the Ebonyi State House of Assembly had no constitutional powers to make such laws because the National Assembly had enacted the Cybercrimes Act in 2015, which is applicable in all the states of the federation.
The court also held that by virtue of cybercrimes being an item in the exclusive legislative list only the National Assembly could enact laws on it.
The court also set aside all steps, actions, proceedings howsoever taken by the Ebonyi State government in furtherance of or in the implementation of the said Ebonyi Cybercrimes Law 2021.
Reacting on the judgement, Etu’s lawyer, Mike Odo, said that the Court, through the judgement as reaffirmed the constitutional right to fair hearing and freedom of expression of every individual in Nigeria.