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Following the public outcry that greeted the hate speech bill, the Senate Ahmed Lawan has said the Senate won’t pass the proposed anti-free speech bills.

Lawan made the disclosure in response to a detailed written protest letter against the hate speech bill and anti-social media bill before the senate by the Human Rights Writers Association of , HURIWA.

He said legislators will listen to the pulse of the Nigerians who have rejected the bills and will do exactly as they demanded.

Lawan had in his letter to HURIWA dated November 20th which was endorsed by his Chief of Staff; Alhaji Babagana M. Aji but received on December 4th titled: “RE: NATIONAL ASSEMBLY’S BILLS AGAINST FREE SPEECH ARE UNCONSTITUTIONAL: BY HURIWA,” stated as follows:

“I write to present the compliments of the President of the Senate, His Excellency, Sen. Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, Ph.D., CON and to acknowledge receipt of your letter on the above subject wherein you asked the National Assembly to suspend ad infinitum the current attempts at introducing obnoxious legislation to curb access to the social media.”

“His Excellency is appreciative of your concern towards upholding our constitution and your members’ continuous use of their talents as writers to promote, protect and project the human rights of all Nigerians. His Excellency assures you that the Senate will not pass any anti-people laws.”

“While thanking you, please accept the assurances of the President of the Senate.”

HURIWA had on November 13th, 2019 written to the senate through the offices of the Senate President titled: “WHY NATIONAL ASSEMBLY’S BILLS AGAINST FREE SPEECH ARE UNCONSTITUTIONAL: BY HURIWA” even as the group had argued that:

“Freedom of expression is one of the fundamental rights provided in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). By virtue of the same and other international instruments, it is the freedom to hold opinions, receive ideas and information and impart ideas and information without interference. Social media is used in reference to the means of expression other than the mainstream media.”

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Urging the National Assembly to stop forthwith any attempt to legislate laws that offend the Rights to Freedom of Speech the Rights group reminded the National Assembly that Freedom of Expression in Nigeria is grounded constitutionally in Section 39 of the CFRN entrenches the right to freedom of expression in the following words:

“(1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection 1 of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information ideas and opinions:

Provided that no person, other than the Government of the Federation or of a State or any other person or body authorized by the President on the fulfillment of conditions laid down by an Act of the National Assembly, shall own, establish or operate a television or wireless broadcasting a station for the any purpose whatsoever.”

The Rights group said similar provisions are found in Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“It does not appear a mere coincidence that section 39 of the CFRN which provides for freedom of expression comes immediately after section 38 which provides for right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Next to thought is expression. The basis for this right, therefore, cannot be overemphasized in a democratic society. It is one of the essential foundations of a democratic society and the basic condition for its progress and development as held the European Court on Human Rights in Handyside Case.” Arguing that there are a plethora of decided cases guaranteeing free speech”.

HURIWA told the senate that:“The per Ayoola JSC, in the case of Medical and Dental Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal v Okonkwo (2001) 85 LRCN 908 declared that the courts are the institution, society has agreed to invest with the responsibility of balancing conflicting interests in a way as to ensure the fullness of liberty without destroying the existence and stability of society itself. Therein lies the wisdom and need for qualification of all rights including this one most essential right.”

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“In the case of Gozie Okeke v. The State (2003) 15 NWLR (Pt.842) 25, the Supreme Court held that the word “reasonable” in its ordinary meaning means moderate, tolerable and not excessive. In this regard, there are extant laws in Nigeria which seek to prevent abuse of free speech. Section 24(1) of the Cybercrime (prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act 2015 makes it a criminal offence to send a message or other matter by means of computer systems of that is grossly offensive, pornographic or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character or causes any such message or matter to be sent or he knows to be false, for the purpose of causing annoyance, injury, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another or causes such message to be sent. Also Section 24(2) of the Act criminalizes transmitting or causing the transmission of any communication through a computer system or to bully, threaten or harass another person where such communication places another person in fear of death, violence or bodily harm or to another person.”

“In the same vein there is the tort of defamation under a victim of abuse of freedom of speech can seek redress besides the criminal offences of defamation and injurious false under the Criminal Code and Penal Code. Section 391 of the Penal Code Law makes is a defamation to speak or represent by mechanical means or by signs or visible representation or publish any imputation concerning another intending to or knowing or having reason to believe that it will hard the reputation of the person. While a false statement of fact under similar circumstances is injurious false under section 393 of the Penal Code Law. There are similar provisions in sections 373, 374 and 375 of the Criminal Code Laws of the Southern States. Besides, there are various provisions in the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission Act dealing with violations which have become known as “hate speech” with varying degrees of sanctions.”

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HURIWA argued strongly against limitations to access to social media and also rejected the hate speech bill as follows: “To require more than the existing laws have provided would portray the government in bad light and peach it against the people and any such further regulation will only take Nigeria centuries back in civilization with attendant consequences of gross and flagrant abuse like in the colonial era or the immediate after which had such over-regulation like the laws on sedition by which a lot of persons were frequently charged and convicted for what ordinarily would be fair comment by citizens of democratic society. A lot of these cases are high profile cases with potential to cause political tension, affect the peace and stability of the entire country which the proponents of the of social media regulation claim to want to prevent. This would further deepen the already entrenched distrust between the people and the government. This way, the government loses its right and benefit of feedback from the people.”

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Abass Sulaiman Adegoke, well known as Adegoke is a student of Federal Polytechnic Ede studying Civil Engineering, He is a media enthusiast, loves traveling, and has a special interest in personal development.

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NERC orders DisCos to suspend new electricity tariffs for two weeks

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The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) on Tuesday ordered the 11 electricity distribution companies (DisCos) to suspend for two weeks the implementation of the new electricity tariffs they introduced on September 1.

The suspension order No. NERC/209/2020 dated September 28 was signed by the Chairman of the commission, James Momoh, and the Commissioner for Legal, Licensing and Compliance, Dafe Akpeneye.

The commission said the suspension order would last between September 28 and October 11 when it shall cease to have effect.

During the period, NERC said “all tariffs for end-use customers and market obligations of the DISCOs during the 14-day suspension shall be computed on the basis of rates applicable as at 31 August, 2020.”

New tariff regime

On September 1, NERC, pursuant to Sections 32 and 76 of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act, approved the Multi-Year Tariff Order 2020 for the 11 successor electricity distribution companies.

The commission said the primary objectives of the MYTO 2020 Order was to ensure that rates charged by the DisCos were not only fair to customers, but also sufficient for the DisCos to operate efficiently to recover the full cost of their activities, including a reasonable return on the capital invested in the business.

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The affected DisCos are the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company Plc, Benin Electricity Distribution Company Plc, Enugu Electricity Distribution Company Plc, Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company Plc, Jos Electricity Distribution Company Plc, Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company Plc, Kano Electricity Distribution Company Plc, Eko Electricity Distribution Company Plc, Ikeja Electric Plc, Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company Plc and Yola Electricity Distribution Company Plc.

Following the approval of the new tariffs by NERC, the 11 DisCos immediately hiked their electricity rates, which has now been in operation for about four weeks.

NERC had, however, said the hike would not affect consumers who do not get daily supply of electricity cumulatively for 12 hours a day for a month.

 

Applicable tariffs for customers in service band D and E (that is customers with a service commitment of less than an average of 12 hours supply per day over a period of one month) would be deferred for the period between September 1 and January 1, 2021.

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Labour threat to strike

However, on Monday, the 14 days ultimatum by the organised labour for the reversal of the hikes in the fuel price and electricity tariffs throughout the country lapsed.

To avert the strike, the government met with the Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC).

 

At the meeting, it was resolved that the review in electricity tariffs would be suspended for 14 days.

The resolution was to allow for further consultations and finalisation of negotiations between the parties on the issue of electricity tariffs hike.

Consequently, NERC said the decision to issue the suspension order was in compliance with Section 33 of EPSRA which states: “the Minister (of Power) may issue general policy directions to the Commission on matters concerning electricity, including directions on overall system planning and coordination, which the Commission shall take into consideration in discharging its functions under section 32(2), provided that such directions are not on conflict with this Act or the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

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Efforts to reach the DisCos on the NERC directive and its implementation were not successful.

The Executive Director of the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), Sunday Oduntan, who is also the spokesperson of the group, did not respond to calls and a text message sent to him on the matter.

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Kindergarten teacher sentenced to death for poisoning 25 children

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A nursery school teacher in China has been sentenced to death for poisoning dozens of children, one of them apparently fatally, in an act of revenge against a colleague.
A court in the central province of Henan said Wang Yun put sodium nitrite into porridge being prepared for her colleague’s students after a falling out with the colleague.
The attack in March last year made 25 children ill.Reports at the time said they began vomiting and fainting after eating their breakfast. One boy was severely ill for months and died in January, according to news reports.
The court said on Monday that Wang knew sodium nitrite was harmful and acted “with no regard for the consequences”.
Her “criminal methods and circumstances were exceedingly bad, with especially severe circumstances, and she should be severely punished in accordance with the law,” the court’s sentencing statement said.
The court said Wang and the manager of the nursery must compensate the children’s families.
It was not the first time Wang had used sodium nitrite to poison someone, authorities said. In 2017 she put some in her husband’s mug, causing minor injuries.
Sodium nitrite is used for curing meats but can be toxic when ingested in high amounts.
Credit: Guardian UK

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