HomeCourt room newsCelebrating the Recent Judicial Recognition of Access to Internet as a Fundamental...

Celebrating the Recent Judicial Recognition of Access to Internet as a Fundamental Right in Nigeria

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By Olumide Babalola

When the tides of banditry hit a crescendo in 2021, the Kaduna State Government instructed the major telecommunication companies to disconnect citizens’ access to the Internet in that State. However, when such measures did not necessarily stem the tides of insecurity in the State, in 2022, our Law Firm approached the Federal High Court sitting in Kaduna in Suit No. FHC/KD/CS/80/2022 between Inc. Trustees of Laws and Rights Awareness Initiative and Attorney General, Kaduna, strategically seeking a couple of reliefs, one of which was:

“A DECLARATION that access to the Internet is a digital right i.e fundamental right guaranteed under chapter 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) but exercised and enjoyed online and on digital platforms.”

While preparing the court processes, our research did not reveal the existence of any Nigerian court decision declaring Access to the Internet as a fundamental right, hence we made it our first prayer – providing a foundation for the other consequential reliefs sought.

The case suffered many adjournments but on the 24th day of January 2024, R.M. Aikawa, J. interestingly declared that:

“While expounding these provisions, the Court of Appeal had this to say: “My Lords, the right to freedom of expression and the press as recognized and guaranteed by law, is geared towards the safeguarding of the right of the citizen to impart and information as permitted by law. It therefore, exists to protect the right to seek and receive information for the purpose of disseminating such ideas and purpose and ideas as well as the right to freely express for the information opinions orally or through publications. The real essence of this right, therefore, is to guarantee to each citizen the right within the purview of the law to express himself freely without unjustifiable interference” see the case of Shuaibu & Ors. v Utomwen & Ors”

…These provisions upon which these decisions are anchored should answer the Applicant’s questions in the affirmative that access to the Internet is a fundamental right as it is a medium to right of freedom of expression as constitutionally guaranteed under section 39 of the 1999 Constitution as amended….Thus… right of access to internet is generally guaranteed by our constitution as a medium of free expression.”

In conclusion, although the court did not grant the consequential reliefs, the decision still constitutes a win and another reference point for digital rights litigation in Nigeria.

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