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Lawyer approaches Senate with court ruling outlawing hate speech bill

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• It’s a threat to democracy, say activists
• We have no moral right to sponsor bill, APC chieftain declares

The hate speech bill being debated at the National Assembly has suffered a major setback as an activist and lawyer, Daniel Daudu Makolo, presented a judgement of the Community Court of Justice (CCJ) outlawing its further consideration.

Makolo, who delivered a copy of the judgement to the Senate yesterday, said it was obtained on Tuesday, December 11, 2018 at the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja, Nigeria.

The judgement with Suit NO: ECW/CCJ/APP/10/15 JUDGMENT NO: ECW CCJ JUD 31 18 quashed and forbids the Federal Republic of Nigeria from criminalising free speech in whatever form, colour or clothing.

It also barred the country from censorship of free speech or press freedom as enshrined and guaranteed under Article XIX of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the ECOWAS Potocol on Democracy and Good Governance.

It stated that all of the above were covenants from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Makolo said the case was instituted by Festus Oguche and Anor Vs The Federal Republic of Nigeria, insisting that the hate speech establishment bill of 2019 contravened Sections 22 and 39 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, which guaranteed freedom of expression.

Besides, sponsor of the bill, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi has said the existing laws on defamation and libel were inadequate to tackle hate speech.

Abdullahi, who is Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, stated this following protests and reactions to the introduction of the Bill in the National Assembly, including a legal luminary, Afe Babalola.

Abdullahi said parliaments across the world have identified hate speech as a new “threat that dehumanises and targets individuals and groups and also threatens peace in a diversified society.”

However, activists have cautioned that the bill was an infringement on the rights of citizens and a potent threat to the nation’s democracy, which allows for free speech in all climes.

The stated this at a one-day summit on peace building and conflict prevention for leaders of ethnic groups at Ikeja, Lagos.

Chief Executive Officer of Journalists for Democratic Rights (JODER) Adewale Adeoye, said conflicts could not be resolved by trying to restrict people from expressing themselves as it could lead to more violence.

Also, Coordinator of the African Conflict Prevention and Peace Network, Sina Odugbemi, noted that from experience, extremism and violence in the country could be avoided without an understanding of the Maghreb Region.

Meanwhile, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Niger State, Jonathan Tsado Vatsa, has said that the ruling party has no moral right to sponsor the hate speech bill or any law that seeks to gag the press.

Speaking at the Social Media Summit in Minna, organised by the Progressive Media Practitioners (PMP), Vatsa, a former Commissioner for Information in the state, said the APC benefitted from what its proponents now call hate speech under previous governments.

“Before 2015, we used all forms of propaganda against the ruling PDP and we said anything to ensure that people hated the party. Our focus was to ensure that we discredited the then ruling party and we won. We should, therefore, not be afraid of what we gave PDP at that time,” he stated.


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