Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana has asked the National Assembly to make laws that will pronounce death penalty for corruption perpetrated by politically exposed persons.
Mr Falana while reacting in a statement to the hate speech bill currently debated by lawmakers described it as an encroachment on the legislative autonomy of the state governments.
A bill to establish a National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech, sponsored by Senator Abdullahi Sabi, was introduced on the floor of the Senate on November 12 and has generated reactions across the country.
The bill proposes that any person, who commits an offence deemed as hate speech, shall be liable to life imprisonment and where the act causes any loss of life, the person shall be punished with death by hanging.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), explained that the National Assembly has no power to exercise such power because Hate Speech is not covered in the Exclusive Legislative and Concurrent Legislative Lists.
“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.”
Mr Falana decried the move, urging the sponsors of the bill to uphold the decision of Nigeria’s founding fathers who created a constitution that guarantees freedom of speech.
“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.”
He added that even though the bill is sponsored by a member of the House of Representatives, it has been adopted by the Buhari-Led Federal Government.
He maintained that the constitutional validity of the Bill will be challenged in the Federal High Court if it is passed by the national assembly and assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Nigeria Has Global Highest HIV-Infected Babies — Health Minister
The Minister of State for Health, Senator Adeleke Mamora, has said that Nigeria has the highest number of babies infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, adding that the Federal Government would therefore sustain HIV prevention and treatment activities nationwide.
The minister noted that the government would commit “sufficient resources to both HIV prevention and treatment in order to stay on track to end the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome by 2030.
Mamora stated these in Abuja on Thursday at the launching of the Faith-based Action for Scaling up of Testing and Treatment for Epidemic Response project in Nigeria.
The project is sponsored by the Catholic Relief Services and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
The minister said, “Over the years, the government has put in place several response mechanisms towards reducing the burden of HIV and AIDS in the country, as evidenced by the reduction in the HIV prevalence from the 3.1 per cent to 1.4 in the last survey.
“It has been discovered that majority of children infected with the HIV are living in sub-Saharan Africa with Nigeria having more HIV infected babies than anywhere else in the world. HIV prevention and treatment activities must therefore be sustained and the momentum increased if the country and the world at large are to stay on track to end AIDS by 2030.
“This launch of the Catholic Relief Services’ FASTER project is at the right time to bridge the identified gaps, especially in pediatric HIV diagnosis and treatment. The six priority actions of the project are as follows; streamline regulatory approval, integrate service delivery, expand diagnostic platforms, evaluate and expand on novel HIV testing approaches, implement validated HIV risk screening checklist and optimise paediatric Anti-Retroviral Therapy.”
The project director in Nigeria, Dr Emeka Anoje, said the programme being implemented in the seven states of Rivers, Benue, Delta, Enugu, Imo, Nasarawa and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
“The project is designed to accelerate progress in pediatric HIV diagnosis and treatment in countries that have high unmet need for child and adolescent antiretroviral therapy. These countries include Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia,” Anoje added.
FG Suspends Turkish Airlines
The Nigerian government has suspended the operations of Turkish Airlines in the country due to the airline’s perceived poor treatment of passengers.
Nigeria’s Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) director-general Abdullahi Sidi in a letter said the suspension might continue “if no remedial action is carried out by the airline.”
Sidi expressed displeasure on frequent cases of the airline leaving passengers en route into Nigeria behind despite having checked-in their luggage.
“This issue had made passengers carry out several mob actions at our airport and it was a great threat to our airport facilities,” Sidi said.
Sidi insisted that the suspension will continue until the airline is willing to operate with the size of aircraft that can transport all passengers with their baggage.
The NCAA boss disclosed that the complaints against Turkish Airlines have been ongoing for two weeks.
He said it was so bad that most recent Turkish Airlines’ flights arrived in Nigeria without more than 85 per cent of passengers’ baggage on board.
Sidi said a series of meetings had been held by the authority and the airline but did not yield results.
“The NCAA is therefore left with no option than to direct Turkish Airlines to suspend its operations into Nigeria until such a time when the airline is ready to operate with the right size of aircraft that can transport all passengers with their baggage at the same time.”
Court Orders Arrest Of Ex-Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Maduke
A high court in Adamawa has ordered the arrest of Diezani Alison-Madueke, former minister of petroleum resources, for allegedly giving a bribe of N362 million to INEC officials to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential election.
Nathan Musa, the judge, gave this order on Thursday while delivering judgement against Ibrahim Umar and Sahabo Hamman, two staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) who received the bribe from Alison-Madueke.
The judge directed Mohammed Adamu, inspector-general of police (IGP), to liaise with the International Police Organisation (INTERPOL) to ensure that the former petroleum minister is arrested.
In a statement, Wilson Uwujaren, spokesperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), said the former minister and three others were charged “for allegedly deploying over N362million derived from a $115m slush fund to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential elections in favour of the candidate of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)”.
Count two of the charge read: “That you, Ibrahim Mohammed Umar, Sahabo Iya Hamman and Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke (now at large) sometime between March and May 2015 in Yola, Adamawa state, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, while being a public officer working with Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and retired public servant and former minister of petroleum resources (now at large) and in capacities, did corruptly procure monetary benefit of three hundred and sixty-two million naira, (N362,000,000.00) in favour of public officers and staff working with Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of Adamawa State, contrary to and punishable under Section 9 (1) (a) & (b) of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.”
Alison-Madueke, who fled Nigeria shortly after she left office in 2015, has been named in several corruption cases pending in different courts in the country.
Some of these cases have been stalled owing to her absence.
The EFCC said it is working at extraditing the former minister from the United Kingdom.