HURIWA Carpets National Assembly over Death Penalty Bill for Hate Speech 

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Condemns DSS’ arrest of Abuja journalist, Tony Ezimakor:

A prominent civil Rights organization- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has accused the National Assembly of working hand -in -gloves with enemies of constitutional democracy bent on destroying civil rule and establishing a one-party dictatorship.

The Rights group therefore has warned the National Assembly to stop using subterranean tactics of sponsoring tyrannical pieces of legislations that could strengthen the oppressive styles and the dictatorial tendencies that are manifesting themselves powerfully under the Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari who is still seeing himself as a military General who rules with iron fists.  HURIWA lamented that enemies of constitutional democracy are now deeply entrenched in the National Assembly.

Also, the Rights group has demanded the unconditional release of the Abuja Bureau chief of the Independent newspaper Mr. Anthony Ezimakor detained over 48 hours ago and denied access to his lawyers reportedly by the Department of State Services (DSS) over series of stories the newspaper just like most foreign journals are running over the negotiations with boko haram terrorists which are marred by allegations of under the table deals.

HURIWA condemned the actions of the DSS in attacking press freedom and wondered why the so called civilian government of Muhammadu Buhari has speedily returned Nigeria to a police state similar to the military juntas of Generals Abacha and Buhari. HURIWA therefore regretted that the National Assembly which ought to provide effective oversight over such security agencies such as DSS to abide by the due process of the law is busy trying to churn out anti- democracy legislations seeking to stiffle the full exercise of the constitutionally guaranteed FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS AS ENSHRINED IN CHAPTER FOUR OF THE 1999 Constitution.

HURIWA is of the position that the draconian bill before the National legislature purportedly meant to check hate speeches but entirely prepared to destroy freedom of speech and media rights is one amongst the latest weapons being used by haters of free speech to seek to demonize and attack perceived political opponents and independent voices that are critical and vocal about the gross misgovernace that has become the hallmark of the current Federal government and most state governments. HURIWA accused the APC dominated National Assembly of using backyard tactics to drive political opponents of Muhammadu Buhari underground to prepare ground for the massive rigging of the 2019 polls in favour of the APC which has failed Nigerians.

The group said the nation has yet to recover from the subsisting sinister plots through a tyrannical piece of legislation to deregister Non-Governmental organizations meant to kill off independent groups working for the millions of poor Nigerians but now the National Assembly has added salt to injury through the so -called anti- hate speech bill which makes it punishable with the death penalty. “Under this bill, when someone doesn’t like Buhari’s face or names his dog after the President for example and criticizes him on the social media, that critic may be termed a hate speech proponent and killed for exercising his constitutional freedom of speech”, HURIWA alleges.

HURIWA which quoted media report recalled that a pending bill before the upper legislative chamber makes it punishable with the death penalty for any person found guilty of any form of hate speech that results in the death of another person in which case that convicted person shall die by hanging upon conviction.

HURIWA recalled that the bill, which erroneously hangs on the growing concern over the spate of violence in the nation as a reason for its presentation was sponsored by the spokesman of the upper chamber, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger).

HURIWA said the controversial bill also seeks the establishment of an ‘Independent National Commission for Hate Speeches’, which shall enforce hate speech laws across the country, ensure the elimination of the menace and advise the Federal Government.

HURIWA recalled that  offences such as harassment on the grounds of ethnicity or racial contempt, a culprit shall be sentenced to “not less than a five-year jail term or a fine of not less than N10 million or both just as the bill notes: “A person who uses, publishes, presents, produces, plays, provides, distributes and/or directs the performance of any material, written and/or visual, which is threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, commits an offence, if such person intends thereby to stir up ethnic hatred, or having regard to all the circumstances, ethnic hatred is likely to be stirred up against any person or person from such an ethnic group in Nigeria.”

HURIWA recalled that the proposed bill notes that “a person subjects another to harassment on the basis of ethnicity for the purposes of this section where, on ethnic grounds, he unjustifiably engages in a conduct which has the purpose or effect of (a) violating that other person’s dignity or (b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person subjected to the harassment.

HURIWA recalled that according to the bill the Conduct deemed hate speech shall be regarded as having the effect specified in subsection (1) (a) or (b) of this section if, having regard to all the circumstances, including in particular the perception of that other person, it should reasonably be considered as having that effect.”

The Rights group however wants the bill dropped like a piece of hot poisonous chalice that it is going by the well-grounded conspiracy theory that the so- called legislation against hate speech is an indirect way being adopted by the ruling party the All progressives congress to stave off still opposition following the groundswell of opinion across all divides that the central government has failed spectacularly to implement any of the electoral campaign promises it made in 2015 prior to the general election in which APC deployed vocal attacks and systematic propaganda and demonization which aided them to wrestle political power from the then incumbent Peoples Democratic Party.

HURIWA argued that the bill as currently proposed is anachronistic, unrealistic, unworkable and dictatorial even as the major provisions in the proposed bill touches on areas of the laws already captured in many statutory provisions scattered all over the federation in our law books. The Rights group therefore dismissed the bill as smokescreen to muzzle civil opposition and to stave off criticisms from all across Nigeria targeting the clear failures of the current federal government.

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