Court Quashes Ebonyi Cybercrimes Law

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By; MKPUMA ENYINNA, Abakaliki

A Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki the Ebonyi State capital on Wednesday, quashed Ebonyi Cybercrimes Law of No 12, 2021 saing that it is  unconstitutional and therefore, 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 they felt is 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, Mr 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 Mr.Nwoba and others were later granted bail by the court following the agitation by some individuals and human rights organisations.
While the case against Mr Etu was  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, Mr 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 is 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 can 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, Mr.Etu’s Lawyer, Mike Odo said that the court, through the judgement has reaffirmed the constitutional right to fair hearing and freedom of expression of every individual in Nigeria.

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