By CHARLES ONYEKWERE
A Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki, the state capital on Tuesday declared the controversial Ebonyi Cybercrimes Law No 12 of 2021 unconstitutional, null and void.
The Court ruling followed a suit by one Pascal Etu who had sued the State Governor, David Umahi, over the controversial law. Ebonyi State Government had in September 2021 enacted the law in equally controversial circumstances.
Apart from the House of Assembly members, no Journalist was present when the law was enacted.
Also, there was no proof of the law going through public hearing before being passed. It was also quickly and secretly accented to by the state governor, David Umahi almost immediately.
The public only became aware of the existence of the law when in October, a social critic, Godfrey Chikwere was arrested by the Police for allegedly flouting some sections of the law.
The Police were about to charge him to court when he suddenly slumped and was rushed to the hospital. Earlier this year, Mr Etu was arrested for allegedly flouting the law, as was the Spokesperson of the People’s Democratic Party(PDP) in the State, Chika Nwoba.
Both were remanded in prison by the State Magistrate Court pending the determination of the allegations against them.
Mr Nwoba was later granted bail by the court following outcry and condemnations that greeted his arrest. But Etu was not so lucky as he is still in prison custody till date with his matter suffering several adjournments. While the case against Mr 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, Mr Etu through his Lawyers prayed the court to declare that the Ebonyi State House of Assembly has no powers to make such laws. He also argued that the law is unconstitutional, null and void as it runs contrary to the Cybercrimes Act passed by the National Assembly.
The respondents in the mater include Governor of Ebonyi state, Ebonyi State House of Assembly and the Attorney General of the Ebonyi state as first, second and third respondents respectively. Others are Commissioner of Police Ebonyi State and Department of State Security Services as fourth and fifth defendants. In his ruling, The Presiding Judge, Justice Fatun Riman granted all 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.