Femi Falana, senior advocate and human rights lawyer, has described as illegal the directive to the Nigerian Army to arrest hate speech makers in the country.
Falana stated this in a statement he issued on Saturday.
He said: “While the federal government is entitled to continue to defend the corporate existence of Nigeria, the right of any group to disagree with the official stand within the ambit of the law should be respected,” he said.
“Therefore, the purported presidential directive authorizing armed soldiers to arrest civilians involved in ‘subversive activities’ should be withdrawn. More so, that it cannot be justified under any law in Nigeria.
“Since it is the constitutional responsibility of the police to maintain law and order in our democratic society, members of the armed forces should not be permitted to arrest alleged purveyors of hate speeches.
“For the avoidance of doubt, section 4 of the Police Act has empowered the Nigeria Police Force to arrest and prosecute criminal suspects in the country.
“However, section 47 (1) of the CyberCrimes (prohibition, prevention etc) Act provides that law enforcement agencies shall have power to prosecute offences under this act while section 58 thereof defines law enforcement agencies to include ‘any agency for the time being responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the provisions of this act.’
“As the Nigerian Army is not one of the law enforcement agencies envisaged by the Act and other penal laws it should not be permitted to enforce any of the laws against hate speeches.”
He added that rather than estabilishing new laws, authorities should demonstrate political will at enforcing pre-existing laws targeted at dealing with hate speech.