The Nigerian Bar Association, senior lawyers and human rights groups on Tuesday took a swipe at the Federal Government for raising the fine for hate speech from N500,000 to N5m. The NBA and others, said the hike was an attempt to stifle the media and kill free speech through an unconstitutional means.
The Nigerian Bar Association described the increase in the hate speech fine in the newly introduced broadcasting code as an unconstitutional attempt to gag the press. The NBA said this through its outgoing National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kunle Edun,said the 900 per cent increase in the fine was anti-people.
“This is an unconstitutional attempt at gagging the press. The press as the fourth estate of the realm plays the constitutional role of a watchdog of our democracy in the face of increasing impunity, seemingly official policy of disobedience of court orders, sheer exhibition of rascality by some of our security agencies and unbridled corruption in government.
“Gagging the press by increasing the fine for hate speech by 900 per cent is anti-people. The government should be more concerned about how to improve the welfare of Nigerians, stop the senseless killings in the country and give the people some hope that they have a government that cares. It is the failure of these core responsibilities of government that causes disaffection in society. “These are the root causes and that is what government should deal with primarily, not scratching the surface.” Nigerian Bar Association explained.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Seyi Sowemimo, said penalty increment was not the best way for curbing hate speech in the face of widespread divisiveness in the country. The SAN also doubted whether the fine could be enforced or not since it was imposed by a code made by the minister and not by the National Assembly, which is the body with the constitutional powers to make laws.
“It is difficult to really define hate speech in the context of the ethnic animosity and divisiveness that pervade the land. I am not sure increasing the penalty from N500,000 to N5m is the best way of discouraging hate speech. The ethnic animosity and divisiveness that pervade our society are some of the things that make people make statements that are being termed hate speech. I don’t think hate speech is the real problem that we have in our country now and so, I don’t see that this measure will serve any useful purpose.
“Besides, I think this fine for hate speech is going to be difficult to enforce. I don’t see how the minister and some people will make a code and increase fine for hate speech from N500,000 to N5m. Until there is a law made by those who are charged to make laws, and not a code, I don’t see how this will be enforced.”
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