CAN: No to Hate Speech Bills

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POSITION OF THE CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (CAN) ON THE PROPOSED SOCIAL MEDIA RESTRICTIONS AND HATE SPEECH BILLS BEFORE THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY.

The leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) under His Eminence, Dr. Samson Supo Ayokunle, is deeply concerned about the ongoing debates on the “Protection from internet Falsehoods and Manipulation and other related Matters Bill 2019” and the “ National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches Bill, 2019” which are before the National Assembly for consideration to become part of the extant laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

These two bills have generated so much misgivings and criticisms that they have led to uncommon tension and fears among Nigeria’s Citizens. This is doing no good to the fears and apprehension of the citizens already on ground as a result of insecurity, deplorable infrastructural amenities and the general welfare of the people.

Having looked at all sides to the debate, CAN is calling on the National Assembly, particularly the President of the Senate and all distinguished Senators to discountenance the two bills and put off completely any contemplation to pass them into Acts of the National Assembly as sincere lovers of the nation.

The bills, in the general view of majority of Nigerians, and in ours too, appear to separately seek to gag Nigeria’s citizens from speaking out freely but responsibly on matters that affect their lives in all spheres. This to us is an ill wind that will blow nobody any good.

On the other hand, we make it clear that the Christian Association of Nigeria is not unmindful of the fact that many individuals and organizations have taken advantage of the Social Media to perpetrate evil and cause tremendous damage to individuals, both private and government institutions.
CAN is also not ignorant of the grave consequences of hate speech among Nigeria’s citizens and how even political parties used hate speeches to effect change of leadership and government at various times. All these are unfortunate developments in the use of technology.

All the same, CAN believes that there are adequate laws within the body of Nigeria’s laws that can be used to check the excesses of individuals and organizations that are misusing the social media and propagating hate speeches.

For example, the provisions of Nigeria’s Constitution on the Fundamental Rights of Nigerian citizens and exceptions are explicit. The Penal Code, Criminal Code, Cyber Crime Act and other legal provisions on crimes that deal with hate speeches, defamation, libel and similar offences are clear and strong enough.

CAN is particularly concerned that Nigerians are being daily distracted from discussing topical issues that have direct bearing on their survival and well being such as poverty, corruption, and the provision of good health facilities, etc.

In this wise, we desire that governments at all levels and indeed members of the National Assembly pay greater attention to the issues of insecurity, economic hardship, poverty, bad roads, poor education and dearth of infrastructure.

We therefore call on our governments to respect the sanctity of the Nigerian Constitution and other extant laws and provide for all Nigerians a better nation to live in.

On the part of the citizens, let us appreciate the efforts of the government to ensure safety and order in the nation. We should acknowledge the genuine efforts of law enforcement Agencies in tackling insecurity and corruption in the land.

CAN calls on all Christians, and indeed all Nigerian citizens to show patriotism and be proud of Nigeria as God’s precious gift to them.

Evang. Barr. Kwamkur Samuel Vondip,
National Director, Legal and Public Affairs, CAN.

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