No fewer than 14 international human rights groups have asked Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, to reconsider the charges of cyberstalking proffered against the Chairman of Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA Resource Centre), Olanrewaju Suraju.
Former Minister of Justice, Bello Adoke, one of those accused of and charged with fraud in the OPL245 scam, also referred to as Malabu scandal, had petitioned the police, accusing those behind petitions resulting to his prosecution for corruption and money laundering of circulating fabricated evidence against him to unduly incriminate him in the multi-million dollars scandal.
The subject of Adoke’s petition was forgery of an email in which Nigeria as a sovereign State was shortchanged to the tune of $1.1billion (one hundred and one billion US dollars) and HEDA and its international partners have been involved in the advocacy for recovery of this money and prosecution of principal actors behind the heist.
However, HEDA and Suraju have denied any wrongdoing in a series of statements issued on the matter, stating that the items they accused of fabricating featured as exhibits in the Malabu Oil scam trials in London and Milan, Italy.
The Nigerian government, through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation recently filed a four-count charge in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/370/2021, accusing Suraju of using his social media handles as well as emails and audio interviews to circulate false information on Adoke.
But in a preliminary objection to the suit against him, Suraju, through his counsels, M.A. Banire & Associates led by Dr. Muiz Banire (SAN), sought the dismissal of the suit, stating that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the charge against him.
In a joint letter dated November 21 to the AGF, the foreign activists who wrote for their groups threatened to report Nigeria to “our governments and international human rights bodies” over the case.
The letter was signed by activists and scholars representing Integrity Initiatives International, Be Just, Partnership for Transparency Fund, Spotlight on Corruption, Anthropocene Actions, The One Campaign, Publish What You Say, Centre for Environmental Rights, Re:Common, The Corner House, Forests Campaign, Global Witness, Environmental Investigation Agency, and Policy Alert.
It read, “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.”