NIGERIA MUST REMAIN A UNITED COUNTRY BASED ON SOCIAL JUSTICE, EQUITY AND THE RULE OF LAW
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is deeply concerned at the recent heightened agitation by individuals, groups and organizations calling for the violent breakup of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Some have advocated secession of certain parts from the country; others have called for some ethnicities to be excised and some others have even gone to the extent of issuing what they call “quit notice” against some ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. These advocacies have been characterized by deeply hateful and hurtful speech on all sides, incitement, tendentious and unguarded comments and war mongering all designed to attack the resolve of the Nigerian people to live in peace, mutual respect and harmony.
These acts of hate and incitement have been disseminated through print, electronic, digital and social media platforms.
The Nigerian Bar Association rejects these tendencies unequivocally and condemns all such threats to the sovereign existence of Nigeria and the peaceful co-existence of our communities.
Admittedly, the content of these messages do not represent the views of most Nigerians, who remain peace-loving. The NBA is concerned, nevertheless, that these acts of hate speech threatening secession, war and violent breakup of the country have been allowed to persist to the point where they are now creating fear and anxiety amongst the people of Nigeria and sending panic signals to our neighbors and the international community. They have, in addition, shaken investor confidence in our country, contributing to slowing down economic and social activities.
The NBA recognizes that Nigeria is going through difficult economic times, a direct product of the failure of successive governments to diligently tackle the myriad challenges bedeviling our country. The NBA is confident that Nigerians can and will resist the tendency to turn on one another during these difficult times. Accordingly:
1. The NBA reaffirms its belief in unity and sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We believe that the peoples of Nigeria, irrespective of diversities of identity, face common and shared everyday challenges and desire a stable and secure country based on justice, equity and the rule of law.
2. The NBA is convinced that our various peoples have consistently shown the capacity and desire to live together in a federation under democratically elected government, which alone can guarantee the conditions for addressing the imperfections that ail our country.
3. The NBA is convinced that our people are better off in a united Nigeria run and managed in accordance with the principles of justice, equity and the rule of law, and capable of harnessing our diversities in a manner that strengthens our historic bonds of coexistence. Any advocacy for violent breakup of the country is misguided.
4. The NBA uncompromisingly affirms that all citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria have the constitutional and legal right to live, travel to and own or acquire movable or immovable property in any part of the federation. No individual, group or organization under any guise can lawfully issue any form of notice to Nigerians with the goal of diminishing the enjoyment of these rights.
5. The NBA reaffirms that Nigerian citizens everywhere have a constitutional right to free expression and to robustly debate issues affecting our country. It is however clear that the constitutional right to free speech does not extend to or protect hate speech. The NBA commits to working with the appropriate security agencies to ensure accountability for such acts. Accordingly, I have today directed the Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL) and the Human Rights Institute of the NBA (NBA-HRI) to collaborate with the National Secretariat of the NBA in a unit to monitor and liaise with security agencies to ensure accountability for hate speech and incitement to identity-based hatred in Nigeria.
6. The NBA appeals to media houses, publishers, broadcasters, opinion leaders, politicians, faith and community leaders, intellectuals, social media influencers and on-air personalities (OAPs) to exercise responsibility and utmost professionalism in the content they publish or distribute through their platforms.
7. The NBA urges Nigerians to unite in isolating and shaming opportunists that have decided to put the co-existence and well-being of our people at risk for their narrow ends. Such a step will further affirm the resolve of the Nigerian people to live in peace and harmony under a democracy founded on justice, equity and rule of law.
8. The NBA urges the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), professional groups and associations, civil society groups and associations, the student movement and all civil democratic organisations to rise and seize the middle ground of moderation and peaceful resolution of political difference in our country
9. The NBA commends the steps taken so far by the Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON, in dousing tension and restoring public confidence in the peaceful coexistence of Nigeria and urges the Acting President to broaden the base of consultation to involve pan-Nigerian groups. .
10. The NBA reaffirms its willingness to work with government and all persons committed to preserving the coexistence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We urge government at all levels, to respect rule of law and enforce the laws of the country without fear, favor, or discrimination. We also urge the security agencies to observe and respect constitutionally guaranteed rights of all citizens.
ISSUED AT ABUJA
4TH DAY OF JULY, 2017
ABUBAKAR BALARABE MAHMOUD, OON, SAN, FCIArb
NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION