Human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), has said the hate speech bill being considered by the Senate is an attempt to gag Nigerians from speaking against the alleged massive corruption going on in government circle.
Falana said the rearrest of the publisher of Saharareporters, Omoyele Sowore, by the Department of State Services immediately after a court ordered his release was a confirmation of this attempt.
Speaking in Lagos on Monday at the presentation of the third edition of ‘Compendium of 100 high-profile corruption cases in Nigeria, Falana, who is the counsel for Sowore said Nigerians must take ownership of the fight against corruption in order to make it successful.
It was organised by Human and Environmental Development Agenda.
Falana called on Nigerians to monitor budgets in their local government areas, states and at the federal level. He said it was insulting for anyone to say Lagos State, with poor road network, was working.
He said corruption had continued to thrive in government circles because Nigerians were no longer holding public officers accountable. He said it was impossible for any governor to think of flying in private jets when there was vibrant student unionism in schools, saying students would question such governors. He stated that those in government now stole with impunity.
Falana said many of the public office holders looting government treasury would not pass psychiatric tests because stealing the amount of money they and their children would not be able to spend was madness.
The human rights lawyer said it was unfortunate that those who went to school free of charge in those days were the ones making it impossible for children of the poor to go to school now through policies and recklessness.
He said, “Don’t leave the politics of your country for professional politicians without ideas. If you leave governance to fools, you are going to be governed by laws made by the fools.
“In this case, you leave politics for corrupt people, you are going to be governed by laws made by corrupt people. That is why they want to silence you. They want to silence you so that you won’t be able to ask questions.
“You can’t be producing books like this (compendium of high profile corruption cases) this is hate speech. I am serious, this is hate speech. hate speech is a reenactment of the sedition law brought to Nigeria by the colonial regime.
“When you are charged with sedition, anything that will annoy the government, truth is not a defence. Under Buhari’s Decree 4, truth was not a defence.
“Hate speech bill is not about abusing somebody, it is about exposing corruption, exposing injustice, exposing criminality and exposing gross violation of human rights that is what they mean by hate speech.