The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has called on Nigerians to isolate and shame individuals, groups and organisations calling for the violent breakup of the country.
The NBA described the quit notice issued in the north as misguided while noting that every Nigerian can choose to live in any part of the country.
In a statement signed by the association’s president, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), the NBA said Nigerians have over time proven to be committed to remaining as one entity.
The NBA said it will liaise with security agencies to bring to book the perpetrators of hate speech, stressing that “the constitutional right to free speech does not extend to or protect hate speech”.
“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,” the statement read.
“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.
“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.
“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 organisation under any guise can lawfully issue any form of notice to Nigerians with the goal of diminishing the enjoyment of these rights.
“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-HRH 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.
“The NBA appeals to media houses, publishers, broadcasters, opinion leaders, politicians, faith and community leaders, intellectuals, social media influencers and on air personalities (GAPS) to exercise responsibility and utmost professionalism in the content they publish or distribute through their platforms.
“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.”