Olanipekun to NASS Withdraw Hate speech bill
A former President of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) has advised the National Assembly (NASS) not to pass the Hate Speech Bill.
Olanipekun warned that the bill could create bad blood and disunity among Nigerians.
He said it was not only counterproductive but also conflicts with the fundamental human rights of Nigerians.
He lamented that such a bill could emanate from the NASS and expressed fear that those pushing for the bill now may soon fall victim to it.
Olanipekun spoke at the weekend in Ekiti State, during the Wole Olanipekun Foundation’s annual scholarship awards for over a hundred indigent but brilliant students.
The former NBA President enjoined legislators to rather than initiate problematic pieces of legislation like the Hate Speech bill, concentrate on sponsoring bills that would cushion the effects of “insecurity, poor education, hardship and bad roads” that plague the country.
He said: “Let me, first of all, say this that 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 NASS. 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 NASS
“We have a lot of problems in Nigeria that we need laws to cushion their effect; we need laws that will cushion the effect of hardship, poverty, education, insecurity, bad roads and all of that.
“As an elder statesman, let me advise the NASS to be more productive, let us stop chasing vanity and things that are counterproductive. To me as a lawyer, as an elder, this bill will be counterproductive. The bill will bring disunity even among family members. We should not bring disunity. Wife and husband disagree, and if such happens, will you report your spouse for Hate Speech?
“Others are moving forward, we are stuck here. In other climes, people are thinking of how to transform their countries in 100 years’ time. I was in Britain a couple of weeks ago, and in a newspaper article it was reported that what [Former Labour Party Prime Minister Tony] Blair had put up some 20 years ago had begun to materialise. And what was it? The Labour government under Blair came to the realisation that the enrollment of young people in school had gone below 20% and the government initiated an idea of getting young men in school by making their major priority education, and now 20 years after, the percentage has risen to 57. That is the kind of thing we should celebrate, not some laws that are counterproductive.
“My little knowledge of law will 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,” Olanipekun explained.
“Sociology makes us to understand that everyone has a moment of momentary madness, an insane period of man. It might even be a transferred aggression.
“Let us caution ourselves in this country, and my fear is that those who make the law might become victims of such law. It is going to be a vicious cycle. The politicians, what do they do at the soap boxes, they engage in Hate Speech and abuse themselves irrespective of their political alliances. They should rather tell us what would benefit Nigerians in the soap box not spreading Hate Speech. They are the purveyors of Hate Speech.
“We have gotten to a stage where in Nigeria we have to speak to ourselves. Even God says to humanity: ‘come let us reason together We must be cautious. Where do we start, where do we progress? What exactly is Hate Speech? It is something that will have a beginning but will not have an end. First, they were proposing capital punishment, goodness me! Such punishment is outdated, how many governors have been able to sign the documents of many people in death sentence? I was Attorney general in old Ondo State and even in Ekiti, none of the governors could sign death [sentences] we them even though we had many on such row. You see chief judges of various states going to release prisoners and you are talking of death sentence?
“Please, they should respect the sanctity of human life. Nigeria is not in the stone age. We have laws that have taken care of all offences in Nigeria. Rights are inalienable, you can’t take rights away. It is not a question of adjustment but a question of, we are all human beings we can err. It is only God that is perfect. Let them withdraw the bill.
“Whether they amend it or not, it will conflict with the principles of fundamental human rights.
“No review, no amendment, but they should withdraw it out rightly. We will forgive them if they show that they err. We will understand that they are also human beings who can also err. Many governors have condemned the bill, and that is civilization. Everybody knows what is good. Everybody also values the sanctity of life. It is not a question of if it is All Progressives Congress (APC) the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) , All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), it is a question of what is not good is not good. I am shocked that the NASS even gave it a thought in the first place.”