The Founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD), Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), has kicked against the proposed Anti-Hate Speech Bill, which prescribed death by hanging for those found guilty of hate speech.
Babalola said the bill was an attempt to undermine democratic governance by taking away the people’s inalienable constitutional guaranteed right to freedom of speech.
The bill, sponsored by the Deputy Chief Whip, Aliyu Abdullahi, has passed the first reading at the Senate, prescribing death penalty for anyone found guilty of spreading a falsehood that led to the death of another person.
He noted that section 39 of the 1999 Constitution explicitly guarantees freedom of expression, saying democracy can only thrive when people are given the free will to impart information and ideas without modicum of restrictions.
The foremost legal luminary spoke at ABUAD in Ado Ekiti, the state capital yesterday while receiving an Award of Excellence bestowed by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Ekiti chapter, under the leadership of Rotimi Ojomoyela.
The award was presented to the legal icon in recognition of his unquantifiable and immeasurable contributions to education development, humanity and nation-building.
Babalola said the provision of the proposed bill is clearly antithetical to the principles and ethos of democratic governance, noting the sustenance of the nation’s democratic status is under serious threat.
The legal icon described the ‘obnoxious bill’ as undemocratic, dictatorial and unnecessary, noting Nigeria already has preponderance of constitutional provisions and extant law to sanitise public expression space.
“I believe this is the beginning of dictatorship. There are enough laws like defamation, libel and slander to deal with anybody who publishes falsehood against someone and it comes by way of taking the person to court.
“So, there is of no need to making new laws to deal with somebody who publishes falsehood. There was no need whatsoever for additional laws to deal with that.
“Though, people are complaining, because the police are not doing well by delaying prosecution of offenders”.
Speaking about the emasculation of the country’s judiciary, Babalola said nothing good can come of the temple of Justice in an environment where judges were being intimidated and harassed.
“Irreparable damage has done to the judiciary since the very day when the Department of State Services ransacked the houses of judges at night, because no judge will give judgment against a government when he has the impression that his house will be searched at night”, he stated.
He urged the federal government to focus attention on the rehabilitation of the dilapidating federal roads in Ekiti, saying all the roads in the state are in bad shape.
“Ekiti has four major federal roads; Ado-Ijan-Ikare, Ado-Ikere-Akure, Ado-Otun, and Ado-Aramoko-Efon, bad enough, all of them are in bad shape. Some have even cut off like the one at Erio”.