Hate Speech bill a distraction to be discarded, says Catholic church

The Catholic Caritas Foundation of Nigeria (CCFN) an organ of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has said that the controversial Hate Speech Bill in the Senate is a distraction that conflicts with democracy and thus should be discarded by the lawmakers.

The Executive Secretary/CEO Caritas Nigeria and National Director, Church and Society Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) Durumi, Abuja, Dr. Uchechukwu Obodoechina, told newsmen on Sunday in Abuja that the Caritas Nigeria and her JDPC Partners in the 56 Dioceses across the 36 states of the Federation, including the FCT rejected all justification for the bill.

According to him, the Hate Speech Bill in its entirety, every move to pass it into law, and any attempt by this present Senate to tamper with the rights to freedom of speech of Nigerians is unacceptable.

“The Senate should rather concern itself with making effort to activate all the existing laws like libel, defamation of character, bearing false witness and so forth. They should ensure that all the Departments and Agencies of Government an hand the Constitutional provisions, work to protect the dignity of every Nigerian citizen.

“And they should be supported in season and out of season to carry out their legitimate duties without being coerced or manipulated by men and women at the corridors of power. What will become the fate of Nigerians should such a primitive bill be passed into law? It means that the hard-earned democracy Nigerians fought for will be lost,” Obodoechina said.

He said the Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which Nigeria is a signatory to and also, article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, as also domesticated in Nigeria, reinforces the indispensable freedom that the nation’s legislators are ferociously daring to undermine.

He said, “Caritas Nigeria hereby joins the rest of Nigerians to condemn this mischievous piece of legislation with all vehemence; Come to think of it, what is hate speech? What constitutes hate speech? Who defines it? What are the indicators for testing what hate speech should or should not be? What is that legitimate boundary between hate speech and freedom of speech for Nigerians?

“Our laws as enshrined in Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution guarantees freedom of expression. As a nation, we possess sufficient Agencies and Laws to carter for hate speeches such as the law of Libel and Defamation of Character. It is therefore absurd to multiply essences arbitrarily.

“The Senate, by this singular act may be proving to be a rubber stamp Assembly, justifying the claims of countless critics. And this is certainly worrisome. It is even more disappointing that of all the throes bedeviling our country today, all it can see is the need to send Nigerians to the gallows for merely exercising their rights as citizens.”

He said it would be good if these times, energy and resources spent on frivolous bills are channeled to saving the traumatized Nigerian masses from poverty, hunger and the tragedies of bad governance.

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