Hate speech bill distasteful, lawmakers should be be productive, says Olanipekun
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Wole Olanipekun, has urged the upper chamber of the National Assembly not to “waste its time reworking” the Hate Speech Bill, urging its withdraw and “focus on something more productive.”
He asserted that besides the fact that the piece of legislation breaches the fundamental human right of freedom of expression as provided in the 1999 Constitution (as amended), there were other “pressing issues that should engage the attention of the federal parliament at this time.”
The constitutional lawyer warned that the bill would generate bad blood and disunity among Nigerians.
Olanipekun spoke at the weekend during his yearly scholarship awards to over 100 indigent but brilliant students through the Wole Olanipekun Foundation at Ikere Ekiti.
The former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) therefore urged the National Assembly to focus attention on sponsoring bills that would cushion the effects of insecurity, poor education, hardship, bad roads among others.
He said: “I am happy to note that it is not an executive bill. You know you can have an executive bill, members’ bill or private bill. This bill is being initiated from or by the members themselves. I am happy because the bill didn’t originate from the presidency. I think we are mixing a lot of things up. People are commenting that Buhari wants to gag the press. I do not agree with them because the bill did not come from the presidency. But it is unfortunate that it is coming from the National Assembly.
“Let me advise the National Assembly to be more productive, let us stop chasing vanity and things that are counter-productive. To me as a lawyer, as an elder statesman, this bill will be counter-productive. The bill will bring disunity even among family members. Even wife and husband disagree, and if such happens, will you report your spouse for hate speech?
“My little knowledge of law does not open my eyes to the definition of hate speech. In the law of defamation, we have libel and slander and vulgar abuse. And they would tell you vulgar abuse is not actionable, we are all human beings, we all have emotions, everyman has his own lull moment.”
The senior lawyer continued: “Let us caution ourselves in this country, and my fear is that those who make the law might become victims. They should respect the sanctity of human life. Nigeria is not in a stone age. We have laws that have taken care of all offences in Nigeria. No review, no amendment will make it acceptable, but they should withdraw it outright. We will forgive them if they show that they erred.”