Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana has criticized the hate speech bill proposed by one of the lawmakers, Senator Abdullahi Sabi.
Senator Sabi had sponsored the bill which has already passed first reading and is being currently debated by lawmakers.
Reacting to the bill heavily criticized by Nigerians, Falana told the National House of Assembly to propose death penalty for corrupt exposed politicians.
He said, “Since we are operating a federal system of government the supreme court of Nigeria had declared in a number of cases that the national assembly lacks the constitutional powers to make laws outside its legislative competence, which are by implication residual matters meant for the houses of assembly of the states. Certainly, the hate speech bill is an attempt to encroach on the legislative autonomy of the state governments.
“However, it is pertinent to point out that the Penal Code and Criminal Code applicable in the northern and southern states respectively have made provisions for hate speech because it is a state offence. Hence, the house of assembly of each of the state has enacted laws against incitement, false accusation, sedition and criminal defamation.”
“The decision of the founding fathers of this present constitution which guarantees freedom of speech which must include freedom to criticize should be praised and any attempt to derogate from it except as provided in the Constitution must be resisted. Those in public office should not be intolerant of criticism. Where a writer exceeds the bounds there should be a resort to the law of libel where the plaintiff must of necessity put his character and reputation in issue.
“Finally, while the leaders of the national assembly may want to advise the legislature in each of the states of the federation to review the applicable penal statutes to review the provisions on hate speech we are compelled to urge the few bloodthirsty legislators in the national assembly to amend the anti-graft laws to provide death penalty for grand corruption perpetrated by politically exposed persons to the detriment of development in the country.”
The SAN stated further that the bill has already been accepted by President Buhari’s government irrespective of who sponsored it.
He however added that the bill’s constitutional validity will be challenged in court if it is passed by the national assembly and approved by the President.