Chief Afe Babalola, founder of Afe Babalola University (ABUAD) has described as the beginning of dictatorship in Nigeria, the Hate Speech bill that prescribed death by hanging for offenders.
He said the bill was an attempt to weaken democratic governance and to take away the people’s inalienable right to freedom of speech guaranteed them by the constitution.
Babalola spoke at ABUAD in Ado Ekiti on Wednesday when he received an Award of Excellence bestowed on him by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Ekiti chapter.
Noting that section 39 of the 1999 constitution clearly guaranteed freedom of expression to the people, he said democracy can only thrive when people have the free will to impart information and ideas without modicum of restrictions.
He said, “I believe this is the beginning of dictatorship. There are enough laws like defamation, libel and slander to deal with anybody who publishes falsehood against someone and it comes by way of taking the person to court.
“So, there is of no need to making new laws to deal with somebody who publishes falsehood. There was no need whatsoever for additional laws to deal with that.
“Though, people are complaining, because the police are not doing well by delaying prosecution of offenders”.
On the perceived emasculation of the country’s judiciary, the legal luminary said nothing good can come of the temple of Justice in an environment where judges were being intimidated and harassed.
He said, “Irreparable damage has done to the judiciary since the very day when the Department of State Services ransacked the houses of judges at night, because no judge will give judgement against a government when he has the impression that his house will be searched at night.”
According Babalola, the Federal government should focus attention on the rehabilitation of the dilapidating federal roads in Ekiti.
“Ekiti has four major federal roads; Ado-Ijan-Ikare, Ado-Ikere-Akure, Ado-Otun, and Ado-Aramoko-Efon, bad enough, all of them are in bad shape. Some have even cut off like the one at Erio,” he said.
The Hate Speech bill, sponsored by the deputy chief whip, Aliyu Abdullahi has passed the first reading at the Senate amid its rejection by many Nigerians.