Civil society organizations are poised to write Nigerian Attorney General Abubakar Malami asking he dismiss criminal charges against long-time Nigerian anticorruption activist Olanrewaju Suraju. His crime? Circulating documents implicating an associate of the Attorney General in the alleged payment of $1 billion by oil giants Royal Dutch Shell and ENI in return for rights OPL-245, Nigeria’s most lucrative offshore oil block.
Not only is a criminal indictment for Suraju’s conduct absurd on its face, the Community Court of Justice for the Economic Community of West African States, whose decisions are binding on Nigeria, has declared the cyberstalking law under which he is being charged in violation of the African Peoples and Human Rights Charter.
The text of the letter is below. Concerned NGOs and individuals are invited to add their names. Use the “Contact” function at the top of the page. Alternatively, letters supporting Nigerian activists’ freedom to urge that those responsible for corruption be brought to justice can be sent to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari through email@example.com
Dear Attorney-General Abubakar Malami:
Our attention has been drawn to press reports of an indictment, approved by your office, against Olanrewaju Suraju, chair of the anti-corruption and human right group HEDA, for alleged cyberstalking.
As at the time of writing, we are assured that Mr Suraju has neither been served with the indictment (despite its circulation in the press) nor provided with any evidence supporting the charges.
We note that the indictment alleges offences under the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act.
We also note that the cyberstalking charges accuse Mr Suraju of having circulated documents that were accepted as evidence by courts in Italy and/or the United Kingdom.
We are gravely concerned by the intended prosecution of Mr Suraju.
It is a fundamental right to report on court proceedings and the use of the Cybercrimes Act to criminalise those who exercise that right is alarming.
We are also shocked that Nigeria should still be using the Act given the recent ruling by the ECOWAS court that the Act is unconstitutional and must be repealed. For Nigeria to ignore this ruling will send a regrettable signal that the current government does not respect international treaties to which it is a Party. Indeed, your own office has accepted that the Act needs amending.
We would therefore urge you to reconsider the indictment of Mr Suraju.
We will be closely monitoring the progress of the case and will draw our concerns to the attention of our governments and international human rights bodies.