Border closure, hate speech bill ill-advised, illegal, says Falana
Lagos Lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has declared that the Federal Government was misled into believing that only border closure could guarantee food security and economic development of the country.
Falana also declared that the National Assembly lacked the constitutional powers to make any law on hate speech, saying such was not captured under the exclusive and concurrent lists of the 1999 Constitution.
He clarified that promulgating such law would not only betray the trust Nigerians reposed on the National Assembly but would also erode the powers of state lawmakers, since Nigeria operates a federal system of government.
Speaking at his Ilawe-Ekiti country home yesterday, the human rights lawyer insisted that it was wrong for President Muhammadu Buhari to have closed the border indefinitely without taking cognisance of the fact it would inflict serious pains on the already overburdened Nigerians.
“I don’t support the closure because it is illegal, immoral and economically senseless. It cannot be defended under the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol on Free Movement of Persons and Goods.
“Punishing millions of citizens for the offence of a few smugglers is immoral. Contrary to the Federal Government’s claim that smuggling has stopped, the criminals involved in the nefarious trade have merely changed tactics.
“Following incessant trans-border crimes including armed robberies and smuggling of vehicles from Nigeria to the Benin Republic in 2003, the Olusegun Obasanjo administration closed the border between Nigeria and Benin Republic for about a week.
“Before the closure, government had investigated and confirmed that one Ahmadu Tijanni, a citizen of Niger Republic based in Cotonu was the mastermind of the trans-border crimes.”
“Although he was a sacred cow in Benin Republic, Tijanni was arrested by the Nigeria Police, tried, convicted and jailed for armed robbery by the Ogun State High Court,” he said.
On the proposed hate speech bill proposal, Falana insisted that the Supreme Court had declared in a number of cases that the National Assembly lacked the constitutional powers to make laws outside its legislative competence, which by implications are residual matters meant for the state houses of assembly.
Meanwhile, representative of Niger East Senatorial District, Sani Musa, and his Niger North counterpart, Sabi Abdullahi, have raised an alarm that bandits have overran their state.
The lawmakers are the sponsors of the bills to regulate social media and outlaw hate speech that prescribes the death penalty for the ‘offences’ when the bills become law.
Raising a matter of urgent public importance under order 42 and 52 yesterday, Musa said the security architecture in his constituency was not working.
On his part, Abdullahi said Niger State was now at the receiving end of efforts made by Zamfara State Government to rid the state of bandits.