Fred Itua, Fred Ezeh, Abuja and Sola Ojo, Kaduna
The Christain Association of Nigeria (CAN) has raised the alarm over the controversial Hate Speech Bill, which it claimed is a ploy by the Buhari-led administration to gag Nigerians.
CAN said the bill is meant to distract Nigerians from discussing topical issues that have direct effect on their survival and wellbeing such as poverty, corruption and the provision of good health facilities, among others.
CAN Director of Legal and Public Affairs, Kwamkur Samuel Vondip, said in a statement that the body was concerned about ongoing national debates and outcry over the proposed bill.
He encouraged governments at all levels and National Assembly members to pay greater attention to issues of insecurity, economic hardship, poverty, bad roads, poor education, dearth of infrastructure and not on issues that tamper with fundamental right of the people.
He added that CAN was not also ignorant of the grave consequences of hate speech among Nigerians and how political parties used it to effect change of leadership and government at various times.
He, however, appealed to lawmakers to discountenance the two bills and put off completely any contemplation to pass them into Acts.
“We have sufficient laws that could be used to check excesses of individuals and organisations that are misusing social media and propagating hate speeches.”
He insisted that Penal Code, Criminal Code, Cyber Crime Act and other legal provisions on crimes that deal with hate speeches, defamation, libel and similar offences were clear and strong enough.
Lending a voice to the debate, Advocats SANS Frontiers France popularly known as Lawyers Without Borders described the bills as an attempt to discriminate against the poor.
Head of the group in Nigeria, Angela Uwandu, said it was unfortunate that at a time the world is moving from capital punishment, Nigeria is still trying to live in the past.
Uwandu told Daily Sun that “death penalty was barbaric, inhumane and violation of right to life” which should be condemned in it’s entirety.
“So, when we call for abolition of death penalty, we are actually calling for the promotion of right to life because life is sacrosanct. Where there is miscarriage of justice in the application of death penalty, we have absolutely no remedy for those kind of situation, meaning that when the execution is carried out and it constitutes a miscarriage of justice, it is irrevocable. So, because of the irrevocability of death penalty, it should be abolished.
“Death penalty is discriminatory. It is used proportionally against the poor because you do not find rich people walking through the justice system and been convicted. The rich will ultimately pay his way out of the system, due to problem of corruption we have in the criminal justice system. Death penalty has not been proven empirically to be better than other correctional options. What we need is corrective action.”
Advocats SANS Frontiers, France with the support of the European Union had organised a two-day training for selected civil society organisations and media in Kaduna on human rights monitoring, documentation and reporting under its Strengthening the National Actors Capacities and Advocation for Ending Severe Human Rights Violations in Nigeria (SAFE).