Efforts to sell the hate speech bill to Nigerians suffered a setback as an activist delivered a court judgement to President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, to guide the Senate from the further attempt to gag free speech in Nigeria.
The letter dated November 28, 2019, drew the attention of the Senate to the judgement of the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) forbidding Nigerian government from criminalising free speech in whatever guise.
The letter was delivered by Mackay Chambers and Associates and reads in part: “We hereby inform you that, the exercise in pursuing this Hate Speeches Establishment Bill 2019 is one in futility and therefore, the taxpayers money should not be plunged into it, in view, of the Judgment of the ECOWAS Court which has been termed by the global community as a landmark Judgment, a trailblazer for the global freedom of expression.”
The judgement was the culmination of the arbitration in a case instituted by Festus Ogwuche and Anor vs the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The certified true copy of the judgement sighted by Tribune Online reads in part: That on Tuesday the 11th day of December 2018 in Suit no; ecw/ccj/app/ 10/15; judgment no; ecw ccj jud 31/18, quashed and forbids the Federal Republic of Nigeria from criminalizing free speech in whatever form, colour or clothing and barred her from free speech or press censorships enshrined and guaranteed under Article XIX of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the ECOWAS protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.”
The judgement states that all these are covenants from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Nigerians enjoy its full declaration.
The letter further stated that the hate speech bill runs contrary to section 22 and 39 of the Nigerian Constitution and other international convention to which Nigeria is a signatory.