Senate Proposes Death Sentence For Hate Speech

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The Senate has gone tough on promoters of hate speech in Nigeria as it yesterday passed into the second reading a bill seeking death by hanging or life jail for anyone who runs foul of the proposed law.

When passed into law, the offenders would be prosecuted under the “Act to provide for the prohibition of hate speeches and for other related matters in Nigeria.“

Although the bill passed the first reading at yesterday’s plenary in the National Assembly, the opposition lawmakers, who kicked against it, said that it was targeted at gagging social media interactions.

Depending on the gravity of the offence, the sponsor of the bill, Senate deputy chief whip, Sabi Abdullahi, appealed to the upper legislative chamber to approve death by hanging for offenders.

Last year, a similar bill, seeking the establishment of the National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches, sponsored by the same lawmaker  passed the first reading on the floor of the Senate.

The 8th Senate had in 2017 attempted to pass the bill without success when the same Senator Abdullahi, as spokesman of the Red Chamber, introduced it.

Abdullahi, who represents Niger North Senatorial District, who sponsored the bill last year, proposed death penalty, life jail, and five years’ imprisonment depending on the degree of the hate speech and an option of a N10 million fine for offenders.

It stipulated that any person found guilty of any form of hate speech that result in the death of another person shall die by hanging upon conviction.

The bill, which was reintroduced yesterday by Abdullahi, is not different from that of last year.

It also seeks the establishment of a commission to enforce the law across Nigeria.

The objective of the bill, according to him, is to ensure the “elimination” of all forms of hate speeches against persons or ethnic groups as well as advising the federal government on the matter.

The proposed law defines hate speeches as comments that insult people for their religion, ethnic, linguistic affiliation, racial contempt among others.

Abdullahi said: “A person who uses, publishes, presents, produces, plays, provides, distributes and /or directs the performance of, any material, written and/or visual which is threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour commits an offence if such person intends thereby to stir up ethnic hatred, or having regard to all the circumstances, ethnic hatred is likely to be stirred up against any person or persons from such an ethnic group in Nigeria.

“Any person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable to life imprisonment and where the act causes any loss of life, the person shall be punished with death by hanging,” he said.

For offences such as harassment on the basis of ethnicity, racial contempt, the bill proposes not less than five-year jail term or a fine of not less than N10 million or both.

According to him, “a person who subjects another to harassment on the basis of ethnicity for the purposes of this section where, on ethnic grounds, he unjustifiably engages in a conduct which has the purpose or effect of: (a) violating that other person’s dignity; or (b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person subjected to the harassment shall be guilty of the offence of hate speech.”

He said that a “conduct shall be regarded as having the effect specified in subsection (1)(a) or (b) of this Section if, having regard to all the circumstances, including in particular the perception of that other person, it should reasonably be considered as having that effect.

“A person who subjects another to harassment on the basis of ethnicity commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to an imprisonment for a term not less than five years, or to a fine of not less than N10 million, or to both.“

Among the functions of the hate speech commission are discouraging persons, institutions, political parties and associations from advocating or promoting discrimination or discriminatory practices through the use of hate speeches; promoting tolerance, understanding and acceptance of diversity in all aspects of national life, and encouraging full participation by all ethnic communities in social, economic, cultural and political life of other communities.

But senators elected on the platform of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have said that they would resist any proposed law in the National Assembly that infringes on the rights of Nigerians.

The lawmakers stated that once any bill threatens the fundamental rights of Nigerians as guaranteed in Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), they would kick against it.

Through the Senate minority leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, the PDP lawmakers told visiting members of Leadership and Accountability Initiative that the right thing would be done on the controversial bill.

Abaribe said that there were already laws that deal with the issues the proposed law seeks to achieve. He, however, urged Nigerians to respect the rights of others while expressing their views.

He said: “There is no speed for this bill to be passed. The first reading of a bill is automatic. We can’t make a comment on what is still at the first stage.

“What I can assure you is that this Senate can’t be a party to removing the rights of Nigerians under any form. Section 39 of the Constitution talks about our freedom as citizens. The 9th Senate will not abridge your rights.

“I don’t think Nigerians who fought and paid the supreme price to entrench this democracy will easily give it away and make us go back to the dark days. Be rest assured that when we get to that point, we will stand for the people. Every bill that passes here must pass through the rigours to ensure that it protects the rights of over 200 million Nigerians.

“We have a plethora of laws that can be used to drive the question of a free society. While the social media can be good, it can also be bad. I am a victim of the social media.

“As much as there is freedom, yours stops where another person’s starts. We urge Nigerians not to propagate falsehood or fake news. Our job is to guarantee the freedoms and rights of both sides,” he said.

The leader of the group, Nwaruruahu Shield, had earlier argued that there were already existing laws and irrelevant to promote a new anti-social media restrictions.

He said: “It is imperative to note that there are existing provisions in the Nigerian constitution which define in plain terms about defamation: A defamation matter is defined in Section 373 of the Criminal Code as a matter likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule or likely to damage any person in his profession or trade by injury to his reputation.

“Seeing that Nigeria has more than enough laws such as the Cybercrimes 2015 Act and other existing laws, it has become obvious that what the sponsor(s) (covertly and overtly) of this bill seek to do is to gag the social media and dictate to us what we can say and what not,” he said

Last week, the Senate proposed a “Bill for protection from internet falsehood and manipulations 2019,” which stipulates a three-year jail term for anyone involved in the abuse of social media. It has an option of fine of N150,000 or both.

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Dust over death penalty proposal for hate speech

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A groundswell of opposition is building up against the death penalty proposal for hate speech.
The bill, which is sponsored by Deputy Chief Whip Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (Niger North), passed the first reading in the Senate yesterday.
Titled: “National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches (Establishment, etc) Bill, 2019”, the bill also proposes the setting up of a Commission on hate speech.
Last week, the Senate introduced a bill to regulate the social media to punish what it termed “abuse of social media” with a three-year jail term or N150,000 option of fine or both.

The Social Media Regulation Bill titled: “Protection from Internet falsehood and manipulations bill, 2019” is sponsored by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa (Niger East).

Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed has said that the Federal Government is poised to regulate the social media.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the Senate has vowed to oppose any proposed legislation that would unduly infringe on the rights of Nigerians.
Minority Leader Enyinnaya Abaribe said this while reacting to concerns on the Social Media Bill raised by members of the Leadership and Accountability Initiative, who visited him at the National Assembly.
Abaribe said the PDP senators would oppose the bill if it threatened the fundamental rights of Nigerians guaranteed in Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
Abaribe noted that there were already laws that dealt with issues the proposed law seeks to regulate.
He urged Nigerians to ensure mutual respect while freely expressing their views.
Abaribe said: “There is no speed with which this Bill is being passed. The first reading of a Bill is automatic. We can’t make a comment on what is still on the first stage.
“What I can assure you is that this Senate can’t be a party to removing the rights of Nigerians under any guise. Section 39 of the Constitution talks about our freedom as citizens. The 9th Senate will not abridge your rights.
“I don’t think Nigerians who fought and paid the supreme price to entrench this democracy will easily give it away and make us go back to the dark days.
“Rest assured that when we get to that point, we will stand for the people. Every Bill that passes here must pass through the rigours to ensure that it protects the rights of over 200 million Nigerians.
“We have a plethora of laws that can be used to drive the question of driving a free society. While social media can be good, it can also be bad. I am a victim of social media.
“As much as there is freedom, yours stops where another person’s own starts. We urge Nigerians not to propagate falsehood or fake news. Our job is to guarantee the freedoms and rights of both sides.”
Leader of the group, Nwaruruahu Shield, insisted that since there were already existing laws dealing with Defamation, it is superfluous to introduce a fresh anti-social media Bill.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar described the introduction of the Anti-Hate Speech Bill by the Senate as abuse of legislative process and called on the federal lawmakers to “stop the folly”.
In a statement by his media adviser, Mr Paul Ibe, the former Vice President said the bill sought to violate the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of speech of Nigerians.
“It is prudent to build upon the tolerance inherited from those years and not shrink the democratic space to satisfy personal and group interests.
“Freedom of Speech was not just bestowed to Nigerians by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), it is also a divine right given to all men by their Creator.
“History is littered with the very negative unintended consequences that result when this God given right is obstructed by those who seek to intimidate the people rather than accommodate them.
“We should be reminded that history does not repeat itself. Rather, men repeat history. And often, to disastrous consequences”, Atiku said.
He added: “We are now the world headquarters for extreme poverty as well as the global epicentre of out-of-school children. Our economy is smaller than it was in 2015, while our population is one of the world’s fastest growing.
“We have retrogressed in the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, from the position we held four years ago, and our Human Development Indexes are abysmally low.
“It therefore begs the question: should we not rather make laws to tackle these pressing domestic challenges, instead of this Bill, which many citizens consider obnoxious?”.
Senator Abdullahi sponsored the same Hate Speech Bill during the Eight Senate but it attracted widespread condemnation from Nigerians. It never returned for second reading before the eighth Senate elapsed
The Bill proposes that the establishment of a Commission to enforce hate speech laws across the country, and ensure the “elimination” of hate speech.
For offences such as harassment on grounds of ethnicity or race, the Bill had proposed that the offender shall be sentenced to “not less than a five-year jail term or a fine of not less than N10 million or both.”
The Billproposes that, “A person who uses, publishes, presents, produces, plays, provides, distributes and/or directs the performance of any material, written and/or visual, which is threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour” committed an offence.
It added that the charge would be justified if such a person intends to stir up “ethnic hatred”.
The Bill makes provision that any offender found guilty under the Act when passed would die by hanging.
“Any person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable to life imprisonment and where the act causes any loss of life, the person shall be punished with death by hanging,” the Bill said.
The Bill provides that “A person who uses, publishes, presents, produces, plays, provided, distributes and/or directs the performance of any material, written and or visual which is threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior commits an offence if such person intends thereby to stir up ethnic hatred, or having regard to all the circumstances, ethnic hatred is likely to be stirred up against any person or person from such an ethnic group in Nigeria.
“Any person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable to life imprisonment and where the act causes any loss of life, the person shall be punished with death by hanging.
“In this section, ethnic hatred means hatred against a group if person’s from any ethical group indigenous today Nigeria.
On discrimination against persons, the Bill also provides that: “For the purpose of this act, a person who discriminates against another person if on ethnic grounds the person without any lawful justification treats another Nigerian citizen less favourably than he treats or would treat other person from his ethnic or another ethnic group and/or that on grounds of ethnicity a person put another person at a particular disadvantage when compared with other persons from other nationality of Nigeria.
“A person also discriminates against another person if, in any circumstances relevant for the purposes referred to in subsection (1) (b), he applies to that person of any provision, criterion or practice which he applies or would apply equally to persons not of the same race, ethnic or national origins as that other.”
On harassment on the basis of ethnicity, the Bill further provides that “A person (who) subjects another to harassment on the basis of ethnicity for the purposes of this section where on ethnic grounds, he justifiably engages in a conduct which has the purpose or effect of: a) Violating that other person’s dignity or b) Creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment for the person subjected to the harassment.
“Conduct shall be regarded as having the effect specified in subsection (1) (a) or (b) of this section if, having regard to all circumstances, including in particular the perception of that other person, it should resonably be considered as saying that effect.
“A person who subjects another to harassment on the basis of ethnicity commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to an imprisonment for a term not less than ten years, or to a fine of not less than ten million naira, or to both.”
The objectives and functions of the proposed commission on Hate Speech, according to the Bill includes to facilitate and promote a harmonious peaceful co-existence within the people of all ethnic groups indigenous to Nigeria and more importantly to achieve this objective by ensuring the elimination of all forms of hate speeches in Nigeria, and to advise the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on all aspects thereof.

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Outrage Greets Senate’s Death Penalty for Hate Speech

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•Bill scales first reading
•Monitoring agency underway

Deji Elumoye, Alex Enumah in Abuja and Segun James in Lagos

The Senate came under fire yesterday for proposing the Hate Speech Prohibition Bill, which seeks to criminalise the offence with death as a penalty.

The bill, which passed first reading at the plenary yesterday, seeks to establish a federal government agency to check hate speech.

But senior lawyers, activists and a chieftain of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, who spoke with THISDAY, condemned attempts to make hate speech a capital offence and urged the National Assembly to tread carefully on the issue.

The bill, sponsored by a former Senate spokesperson, who is now the Deputy Senate Whip, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, is entitled “National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches (Establishment etc) Bill 2019.”

Abdullahi had sponsored a similar bill in the Eighth Senate, which prescribed among others, death by hanging for anyone found guilty of the offence.

The bill Abdullahi presented to the previous Senate said an offence is committed when “a person publishes, presents, produces, plays, provides, distributes and/or directs the performance of any material, written and/or visual, which is threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, commits an offence if such person intends thereby to stir up ethnic hatred, or having regard to all the circumstances, ethnic hatred is likely to be stirred up against any person or persons from such an ethnic group in Nigeria.

“A person subjects another to harassment on the basis of ethnicity for the purposes of this section where, on ethnic grounds, he unjustifiably engages in a conduct which has the purpose or effect of (a) violating that other person’s dignity or (b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person subjected to the harassment.

“Conduct shall be regarded as having the effect specified in subsection (1) (a) or (b) of this section if, having regard to all the circumstances, including in particular the perception of that other person, it should reasonably be considered as having that effect.”

Part two of the 26-page bill talks about the discrimination that the bill applies to include ethnic discrimination, hate speech, harassment on the basis of ethnicity, offence of ethnic or racial contempt, discrimination by way of victimisation and offences by body of persons.

In his own reaction, human rights lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), called on Nigerians to rise up against the bill, to ensure that it does not see the light of day.
He wondered when making a speech which is guaranteed as freedom of expression under Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution, became punishable by death.

Ozekhome described the bill as ill-intentioned, ill-conceived, and ill-digested to breed dictatorship and absolutism.
“An obnoxious law such as this will further drive underground and into hiding, the opposition and genuine social critics, who speak truth to power and criticise serial opaque, anti-people, corrupt and high-handed policies of government,” he added.

According to him, since the current government has been tested and known to be allergic to constructive criticisms, the bill if allowed would embolden it to clamp many Nigerians in detention.
Ozekhome’s other colleagues also warned the Senate against passing the bill, describing it as a violation of the 1999 Constitution.

Mr. Dayo Akinlaja SAN, while describing the move as weird and absurd at this age, said inasmuch as the menace of hate speech in the country should not be tolerated, there was need for caution to ensure that innocent people did not suffer.

“As much as one would not want to condone anything like hate speech the reality is that one would have to be extra careful to avoid the possibility of an abuse,” he said, adding: “If the punishment is that capital, then what happens if somebody is wrongly accused? That is rather absurd and preposterous at this age and I pray that such a thing does not come through.”

Dr. Kayode Olatoke SAN also noted that the bill violated constitutional provision on freedom of speech.
Olatoke while recalling that the matter is already a subject of litigation at a Federal High Court, stressed that the punishment is outrageous when compared with other similar crimes, which borders on law of torts.

He, however, urged the National Assembly to refrain from going further with the bill until the issue is resolved in the court of law.

Another SAN, Mr. John Baiyeshea, expressed confidence that the National Assembly would listen to public outcry.
“I’m sure the sentence will be reviewed/reduced to terms of imprisonment”, he said.
Mr. Ahmed Raji SAN called for a probe of what constitutes hate speech in the proposed law.

“I think we should start by probing into what constitutes hate speech under the proposed legislation. Notwithstanding what may constitute hate speech, the world is moving away from death penalty,” he stated.

Also, human rights activist and Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Dr. Nnimo Bassey, told THISDAY that it was outrageous and shameful for the Senate to contemplate a bill of that nature.

He said: “Death penalty for so called hate speech; who decides what constitutes hate speech? Our political leaders? If social media statements that have landed some Nigerians in the Gulag approximate what the drafters of this bill have in mind, then there is real threat of a dark cloud over Nigeria. The idea smacks of total insensitivity and is not expected of even the most autocratic. It is a bill with murderous intent. The National Assembly should spend its time on bills that deepen rather than constrict the democratic space. This bill should be withdrawn!”

A chieftain of the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said he was speechless.
“This is inconceivable in a Senate under a constitutional democracy. There is no arrest or prosecution for Fulani herdsmen’s atrocities not to talk of death penalty for culprits but for free speech. God Save Nigeria,” he said.
Also reacting, a former Special Adviser to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo on Political Matters, Mr. Akin Osuntokun, said the new bill would amount to mindlessness.

“It is like using a bulldozer to crush a mouse. In the first place, classifying what qualifies as hate speech is problematic and prone to abuse. It will end up creating more problems than it can solve. There are extant laws that can be adapted for the same purpose. The law against defamation for instance,” he said.

Also in its reaction, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in a statement jointly issued by the President, Chris Isiguzo and National Secretary, Shuaibu Usman Leman, said most actions being taken in recent times were deliberately crafted to target and silence journalists.

“Safety implies freedom from danger and, in the news gathering context, safety implies protection from a range of threats journalists encounter, including arrest, legal action, imprisonment, kidnapping, intimidation and murder, amongst others. Journalists that are hitherto exposed to more danger in violent armed conflicts than in peace and stable situations, now face greater threats in a democracy like Nigeria. These threats and attacks against the media are aimed at inducing fear and self-censorship and regrettably these are the basic strategies of authoritarian regimes and not democracies like in Nigeria,” the NUJ stated.

The post Outrage Greets Senate’s Death Penalty for Hate Speech appeared first on THISDAYLIVE.

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Peters accepts National ministers didn’t leak

Peters accepts National ministers didn’t leak

Winston Peters’ has accepted in the High Court that two former National ministers he had been suing for $450,000 for breaching his privacy were not the source of the leak or responsible for it.

In his closing submission today, Peters’ lawyer Brian Henry said both Anne Tolley and Paula Bennett denied in their evidence leaking information on Peters’ seven-year overpayment of superannuation – and the lawyer for the Ministry of Social Development and public servants did not challenge those denials.

“That left the MSD in the position that they now cannot avoid a finding that the breach was on MSD,” Henry said. “The plaintiff was expecting a challenge from MSD to the ministers, but the MSD has not challenged the evidence that they [the ministers] did not leak.

“That dual denial removed two of the options that the plaintiff, when it opened its case, was expecting to have examined in the court.”

That means Peters is no longer suing the National pair for damages.

Tolley, who as Minister of Social Development in 2017, was briefed by the ministry’s then-chief executive Brendan Boyle on the Peters overpayment and repayment of his pension – and Bennett, briefed as Minister of State Services a day later by the State Services Commissioner, have denied since the proceeding began two years ago that they were involved in the leak.

Peters made his overpayment public during the general election campaign after learning the information had been provided to journalists. Newshub and Newsroom both received anonymous calls with details about the overpayment, which had come to light when Peters’ longstanding partner Jan Trotman applied for her own superannuation.

The two ministers were briefed on the matter by the top public servants under the ‘no surprises’ policy by which departments inform ministers of matters which might become controversial or be subject of public debate. The officials had sought advice from the Solicitor-General before acting and had waited until a decision had been reached independently on Peters’ fate by an MSD regional official.

As well as around 40 ministry officials who had some awareness – 11 of whom knew the level of detail passed to the media – several officials in Tolley’s ministerial office and also then-Prime Minister Bill English and finance minister Steven Joyce ended up being told directly or indirectly some information by the two ministers.

With Henry now saying the two National MPs can be ruled out because of the court hearing, he told Justice Geoffrey Venning: “The only inference on the balance of probabilities is that the MSD was responsible.”

Henry said Peters’ case was that under the tort of privacy he had a reasonable expectation that his private information would not be made public and what was disclosed had been highly offensive.

“In this case, the MSD exclusively held the plaintiff’s private information. Unless they can rebut the evidence there arises an evidential presumption.

“The larger the group [who had become aware in the ministry] the greater the foreseeability the matter would be leaked. 

“The perpetrator will never front. Someone in MSD in full knowledge breached the plaintiff’s privacy and set off a chain of communications causing damage to his reputation.”

Henry said: “This is not likely to be a mistake.” He noted someone with knowledge could have covered digital tracks to avoid internal inquiries afterwards. “It is accepted that the breach may not have been with the intent that the private information reached the media. But it still must be a deliberate breach of obligations owed by MSD.

“The only inference is the perpetrator of the breach was aware that communicating that information outside the MSD, they were committing a serious breach of the plaintiff’s personal information.”

Henry said Peters had been guided in the level of damages sought from the defendants by the upper limit set in a recent defamation case, but the quantum was an assessment for the judge.

As well as damages, Peters wants a declaration from the court that his privacy was breached. 

The NZ First leader says it is necessary to have the tort of privacy recognise such a breach because in the digital world “the dissemination of [private] information is now in the hands of irresponsible persons… and politicians are not extremely vulnerable”.

At the end of his submissions, Henry clarified for the judge that Peters was now seeking the $450,000 in damages under his first course of action from all defendants together rather than seeking that sum from each.

Questioned further by Justice Venning, he said the fact Bennett and Tolley could no longer be accepted as the source of the leaks meant that they could not continue to be included in the course of action seeking that money. So the damages are sought, together, from Boyle, Hughes and MSD.

In three further courses of action, Peters is seeking declarations from the judge that his privacy was breached by the public servants in briefing their ministers and by the two ministers in accepting those briefings.

Henry disputed a claim by Bruce Gray QC, for the ministers, that there had been no social media reports of Peters’ overpayment presented to the court that had occurred before Peters issued his press release announcing that news.

He pointed to a Kiwiblog posting about the risks for Peters if the overpayment news was correct. However he gave the court the date August 28 for the Kiwiblog comment, and that was actually the day after Peters issued his press release.

The only social media content appearing before Peters went public had been three tweets from the writer of this article about a possible major political story, and the tweets did not mention him, his party, gender, age or superannuation.

The writer had to provide a sworn statement in the earliest part of the proceedings and pointed out that intense speculation on Twitter had followed those tweets but that not one that was connected to his tweets had referred to or even hinted at Peters being involved.

Earlier, Victoria Casey QC for Hughes, Boyle and the ministry, said Peters’ pleading alleging bad faith by her clients would, if found to be so, be “catastrophic” for the officials. “If established, it would be the end of any career for them in the public service.

“It’s important that Mr Peters is held to his pleadings,” she said.

The bad faith accusation was raised by Peters in his fourth ‘statement in reply’ before the hearing began. “Mr Peters is not entitled to pursue new allegations of bad faith.”

(Henry later told the court he was saying officials had not acted in good faith rather than they had acted in bad faith. That was so those defendants had to disprove his claim rather than Peters having to prove ‘bad faith’.)

Justice Venning has reserved his decision, which he said was unlikely before the end of the year.

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I wanted to make our problems known, says FUNAAB student expelled over Facebook post – TheCable Lifestyle

Michael Ifemosu, a student of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), expelled over his critical Facebook post made about the institution, says he was only trying to bring the school’s attention to the students’ plight.

Ifemosu, who is the convener for the Youth In Good Governance Initiative (YIGGI) and an Ogun state secretary for African Action Congress (AAC), recently made the headlines after he received a letter of expulsion for criticizing the university authorities in an open letter addressed to the VC.

Speaking with TheCable Lifestyle on Monday, the student activist described the school’s move as a “collective slap on the face of Nigerian students” and an “infringement” of his rights.

He stated that he only wrote the piece to bring the authority’s attention to the “lingering issues affecting” the students — not to fight the powers that be, “as the school interpreted it.”

According to him, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and the Student Union Government (SUG) in FUNAAB, have moved to dialogue with Felix Salako, the vice-chancellor of the institution, but there are fears that it might not yield the desired outcome.

“The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) in line with the Student Union Government (SUG) of my school told me they would meet with the vice-chancellor today to solve the situation. But I’m not sure the result would be positive. It is the aftermath of the meeting that would determine the next line of action,” Ifemosu said.

“The picture they’re painting now is that I’m trying to fight the university authorities. I was only trying to bring their attention to what is happening. On the basis of all that I’ve done so far, I’m not convinced I should be expelled because I held an opinion on something that personally affected me and the rest of the students. I’m not happy.”

While the struggle to reinstate me is ongoing, I want to take up the internship training by Leventis Foundation (Nigeria) One-Year Training Programme 2019 / 2020 in Modern and Sustainable Agriculture (Fully Funded). #ReinstateIfemosu

— Ifemosu Michael Adewale®️ (@ifemosumichael) November 3, 2019

Bola Adekola, the FUNAAB registrar, had, on Friday, confirmed Ifemosu’s expulsion after the 200 level student of the Department of Forestry and Wildlife Management had been summoned to “defend himself” in front of the institution’s disciplinary committee.

“You would recall that in July 2019, you posted an open letter on the Internet to the vice-chancellor of the school in which you raised allegations and misrepresentation of fact about the university,” the letter read.

“At the Student Disciplinary Committee meeting held on August 29, 2019, you were invited for the purpose of giving you fair hearing on the allegation of an act perpetrated through the Internet, that is inimical to the integrity and corporate image of the university.

“Senate, at its 217th Statutory Meeting held on Thursday, October 17, 2019, considered the report of the Student Disciplinary Committee on the allegation and thus decided that you have been found culpable of insubordination to university officials, defamation of character and act perpetrated through the Internet.

“That is inimical to the integrity and corporate image of the university based on the extant rules and regulations on penalties for various offenses by students of the university. Consequent upon the decision of Senate, you’re hereby expelled from the university as provided for the offenses committed by you.”

It is Saddening and Weakening!

This is my Reward for calling the attention of the Vice Chancellor on lingering challenges rocking Funaab ecosystem! This is

We play Politics with everything in this country 💔😭😭 https://t.co/6SY7fANBY1

— Ifemosu Michael Adewale®️ (@ifemosumichael) November 2, 2019

Read the Facebook post that prompted the expulsion below:

It’s no more news that Funaabites queue, fight, and struggle to attend classes or leave the school premises. However, the vice-chancellor and the university management team are seen with one or two official car(s). This makes transportation easier for them while students languish in an unending tragedy,” he wrote.

“The Funaab Bureau of Transport (FUNAABOT) has performed below expectations despite millions of naira allotted and allocated to the department for the purchase and renovation of MANCOTS but all went down the drain. Those monies remain carpeted till this moment.

“Again! I read in the News that the Vice-Chancellor of Funaab wrote to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) that they are free to arrest students found wanting and guilty of cybercrimes.

“I would have said it was a good move not until I became a victim and also received report of the arrest and detention of innocent students who were unjustly harassed, extorted and brutalized. This is what you get when people who, if managing poultry, would make sure eggs are stolen, are given a University to manage.

“It is rather unfortunate that we have accepted the sad reality that relegates our ‘scholars’ to chasers of political appointments — people who are ready to lick butts to be made INEC returning officers, political aides, VCs, directors, deans, and even Head of Departments.”

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Priest tightens security after latest threats at Quinn firm – Independent.ie

person frisbee

It hardly inspires confidence that the parish priest known for speaking out against this intimidation is forced to take security measures for his own protection.

Fr O’Reilly delivered a searing homily last month calling out the mafia-like “paymaster or paymasters” who funded the savage attack on Mr Lunney. In an interview with the Sunday Independent, he said: “The more you speak, the more you are at risk.”

For now, he plans to step back from the robust public commentary he has become known for, in the hope of fostering peace. “I want to get back to my normal parish work… I find that in the last month, a whole lot of things have happened. I want to take a back seat for a while. But if there is further intimidation, I intend to return to the fray.”

A second death threat to the directors of Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) last week – companies founded and lost by the former billionaire Sean Quinn – has finally catapulted the long-standing campaign of intimidation and violence into the lap of Government.

The threat was issued via the Irish News last Monday by a man in a balaclava reading from a statement purporting to be a “last warning” to directors to resign or face a “permanent solution”. The directors “hadn’t learned their lesson” since the attack on Mr Lunney, the man said, chillingly noting that they could have “easily killed” him if they had wanted to.

In the same week, Sinn Fein TD Martin Kenny’s car was set alight outside his home in Leitrim, the Garda station in Emyvale, Co Monaghan was set ablaze and two Monaghan hauliers were named as persons of interest in the investigation into the deaths of 39 Vietnamese people smuggled into the UK.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, have struggled to explain why the years-long intimidation has not been stopped.

The Sunday Independent has learnt that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar privately rang John McCartin, one of five directors of QIH under threat, twice last week saying he was “appalled” at the intimidation. That the Taoiseach should open a direct line of communication with the victims of this campaign indicates that the penny has finally dropped.

For eight years, the directors of QIH and its property have been under siege. The businesses were once owned by Sean Quinn, the local former billionaire who lost control of his empire in 2011. He has repeatedly denounced the attacks on the companies, saying they are not carried out in his name. According to Mr McCartin, the failure of authorities to act – from Cavan County Council not taking down signs to gardai not making arrests – has “emboldened” those responsible and allowed for an escalation of violence and the creeping involvement of paramilitaries.

A photograph in the Irish News of the masked man bearing the latest death threat prompted a number of calls to the police confidential lines from local people claiming to recognise him, sources said. They suspect he is a dissident republican, originally from Northern Ireland but now living in Cavan, who has served jail time for possession of explosives. He was once prominent in the Real IRA. A director of QIH has also reported this man’s suspected identity to the PSNI and gardai.

The abduction and assault on Kevin Lunney bore the hallmarks of a paramilitary- style operation. He was kidnapped, tortured and had his legs broken in an attack resembling a punishment beating. The care that his attackers took to destroy a forensic trail, viciously pouring bleach over Mr Lunney before dumping him on a Cavan roadside, was also redolent of paramilitary thugs.

Drew Harris said last week that the investigation into the attack is making progress. Garda sources say several of the suspected gang members have been identified, and a van seized in Meath recently is believed to have been used by the gang in the attack.

But the directors of QIH struggle to see that progress. On Tuesday, the directors will hold their first meeting with the Garda Commissioner in Monaghan. Present will be chief executive Liam McCaffrey, chief financial officer Dara O’Reilly, non-executive director John McCartin and production director Tony Lunney. Mr Lunney’s brother Kevin, the company’s chief operating officer, will also attend if he is well enough.

“We are preparing for the meeting with the Commissioner. We will be asking for an update on the investigation, what progress has been made and why there have been no arrests six weeks after Kevin was attacked,” Tony Lunney told the Sunday Independent.

An obvious question is whether in the vacuum of any arrests, those responsible for the intimidation felt emboldened to issue a second death threat. The paramilitary theatrics surrounding its delivery suggests an element of playing to the media gallery too, and the statement even referenced newspaper articles about the attacks on the Quinn group.

John McCartin believes this is all part of the strategy: “We have had intimidation, signs and posters going up, defamation on Facebook and on social media, physical assaults, and now torture and kidnapping, and using mainstream media attention to scare away future investors.”

The directors believe the endgame of the campaign of violence is to run them, and the US investors, out, risking more than 2,000 jobs connected to the businesses and leaving the remnants of the group there for a new buyer to pick over. The Garda investigation is building on the question cui bono? Who ultimately benefits from running the directors and their investors out of town?

Sean Quinn has made no secret of wanting “his” company back. But he has repeatedly condemned the attack on Kevin Lunney as “barbaric”, acknowledging that his family would be “blamed”. He told Channel 4 News that he no hand, act or part in the attack, and had abandoned his ambitions to return to the businesses as a result of it. In his most recent statement to RTE last week, he said: “I call on those who have advanced threats to withdraw them immediately. If they feel that they are doing it in mine or my family’s name, they are badly mistaken.”

Mr Quinn is also clearly irked at Fr O’Reilly. He called to his home two weeks ago to challenge him on his now famous homily, even though the priest did not identify anyone in it.

This weekend, Mr Quinn confirmed to the Sunday Independent that he has complained to the priest’s Kilmore Diocese. He said he met the administrator, Monsignor Liam Kelly, and has written to “other people”.

He denied threatening legal action but he didn’t rule it out either. “I made no threats to anybody,” he said, in a phone call. Asked if he is considering legal action, he replied: “Well, we are where we are…”

Asked why he wrote the letter, he said: “I’m not going there but sure any fool would know why I wrote the letter.” He accused the priest of “telling lies” from the altar. “So, it’s not hard to know, anybody with any wit would know the man was off his head.”

Fr O’Reilly told the Sunday Independent this weekend that he wrote his homily in “anger” at the “awfulness of the inflicted injuries on Kevin Lunney”.

“It is not a good way to be writing something when you are angry,” he said. “I have to take that on board myself before asking anyone else to do that. I don’t want to vilify anyone. It never was my intention. I want to give more rational debate a chance, with the hope that these years of intimidation are now coming to an end.”

In the sitting room of his parish home in Ballyconnell, a large detached house clearly visible on the hill, Fr O’Reilly cited Nelson Mandela’s words about “leaving bitterness and hatred behind”.

“The most terrible walls are the walls that grow in the mind. I believe that applies to this area. Walls grow in the minds of some people that are causing great difficulty for themselves and for others. These walls are about perceived grievances, and I suppose prejudice plays a major part and they become entrenched,” he said.

“We must find ways and means of helping people to take down these walls.”

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Bocas House Restaurant Owners File Lawsuit to Stop Enchufado Rumors | Miami New Times

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In Miami’s fast-growing Venezuelan community, there are few things worse than being known as an enchufado. It’s a scarlet letter worn by those believed to have enriched themselves through political connections to the regimes of Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro and the late Hugo Chávez.

Ask enough Venezuelans expats in Florida, and they’ll tell you the state is practically crawling with them. A suspected enchufado‘s business ties, alleged wealth, and proximity to corruption in Venezuela are all fair game and scrutinized through social media, WhatsApp chats, and internet blogs — on certain occasions operating on little more than suspicion.

For years, enchufado rumors have been swirling around brothers Carmelo and Levin de Grazia, the owners of the Florida-based Bocas House restaurant chain. But the de Grazias appear to have finally reached their limit — earlier this month, the two filed a defamation lawsuit against three South Florida residents who allegedly spread gossip on blogs and social media accusing the pair of laundering money for corrupt Venezuelan officials through their restaurants.

According to the civil complaint filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, the ordeal began at the end of August when an anonymous Venezuelan blog, UltimaHora24, published an article claiming the de Grazia brothers and their cousin Horacio were using the restaurant chain to launder portions of the estimated $1.2 billion embezzled by officials in the Maduro regime from Venezuela’s state-owned oil company. The article was then reposted and shared on social media by two more anonymous blogs, Expresa and VozDeAmerica. (The original article has been taken down from the UltimaHora24 website but is still available on internet archives.) The brothers claim “upon information and belief” that all three of the websites are owned and run by Doral resident Gerardo Jose Gils Dams.

Venezuelan journalist Angie Perez is also named as a defendant. The brothers’ suit says Perez shared the article on her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages and also uploaded her own Instagram post with a photo of a private jet in Opa-locka that she claims belongs to Levin de Grazia.

A post shared by Angie Perez (@angiepereztv) on

The lawsuit claims the campaign to defame the restaurant owners was orchestrated by Cesar Gonzalez, a former co-owner of Bocas Group and former manager of a now-closed Bocas restaurant in Coral Gables. The civil complaint details an elaborate plot that supposedly involved Gonzalez paying Dams to make the posts and then, using intermediaries, requesting $70,000 from Levin de Grazia to take them down. (The suit suggests Perez’s alleged involvement was limited to reposting the articles and making her own social media posts and does not link her to any attempts at extortion.)

In a public statement, Levin de Grazia said the enchufado accusations are an attack on his livelihood.

“Bocas has never lent itself, nor will it ever, for money laundering. On the contrary, the origin of the funds used for the foundation and the growth of the restaurants is completely lawful, auditable, and has been fully declared to the competent authorities in the United States of America,” he wrote. “It is an unfortunate reality that entrepreneurs who work hard sometimes face attacks from disgruntled former partners.”

An administrator with Expresa tells New Times the site is run by a decentralized network of journalists who did not know or have any relation to Dams. Likewise, an administrator from VozDeAmerica says the site has no relation to Dams and did not even know about the lawsuit.

No contact information is provided on UltimaHora24’s website. Perez declined to comment on the lawsuit when contacted by New Times. Gonzalez has not responded to a message sent via Twitter, and Dams could not be reached for comment.

In 2015, Levin de Grazia opened the first Bocas restaurant, Bocas Grill, in Miami. In less than four years, Bocas Grill and its sister franchise, Bocas House, expanded to five other locations. Bocas Management Group also owns four other restaurants in the Miami area: Francisca, Kitchen of the World, Laborejo, and La Fontana. Additional Bocas Group restaurants are currently under construction.

A post shared by Levin De Grazia (@levindegrazia) on

The de Grazias are expats from San Cristobal, Venezuela, where their father, Americo De Grazia, serves as an opposition lawmaker in the country’s national assembly. Carmelo de Grazia, Levin’s brother, lives in Caracas, according to the lawsuit.

The sudden success of the restauranteurs stirred suspicion among many Venezuelan expats, particularly on social media, where Venezuelans wondered publicly how Levin de Grazia got the funding to open so many restaurants in such little time. Levin de Grazia took notice. In a 2017 WLRN article, he likened an anonymous Instagram post accusing him of money laundering to a witch hunt and said the gossip could ruin his business. “No Venezuelans here want to go to a Chavista restaurant,” he said.

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The business grew, but the rumors kept spreading. The lawsuit claims the accusations have left the plaintiffs subject to “hatred, distrust, ridicule, contempt or disgrace.”

The growth of whisper networks against suspected enchufados has coincided with a jump in federal indictments against former Venezuelan officials and individuals with Chavista ties residing in or hiding assets in the U.S. There’s no doubt there are plenty of enchufados around, but proving those accusations can be difficult.

The Miami-based Veppex group (an acronym for Politically Persecuted Venezuelans in Exile, in Spanish) recently launched a platform where individuals can anonymously submit information on suspected enchufados. The group says they forward all credible-seeming accusations to the Department of Justice and other federal agencies.

“In cases where one is looking to denounce an enchufado, the best thing to do is get in touch with U.S. authorities, so that they can investigate,” says Veppex president José Colina. “Because in the end, you’re going to need to have proof.”  

Manuel Madrid is a staff writer for Miami New Times. The child of Venezuelan immigrants, he grew up in Pompano Beach. He studied finance at Virginia Commonwealth University and worked as a writing fellow for the magazine The American Prospect in Washington, D.C., before moving back to South Florida.

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L Brands CEO accuses Jeffrey Epstein of misappropriating money

Alan Dershowitz

New York (CNN Business)L Brands CEO Leslie Wexner is accusing multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein of misappropriating “vast sums of money” from him and his family, according to a letter to Wexner Foundation members.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the letter. CNN has obtained a copy of the letter, which was not signed by Wexner or dated.
“This was, frankly, a tremendous shock, even though it clearly pales in comparison to the unthinkable allegations against him now,” the letter said.
    Epstein’s attorneys could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.
    The Wall Street Journal reported that 2008 tax records indicate that Epstein “transferred $46 million worth of investments to a Wexner charitable fund.”
    CEO
    “Mr. Wexner said the transfer was only a portion of the funds that his money manager had allegedly misappropriated,” the newspaper reported.
    Epstein, 66, pleaded not guilty in July to federal charges of sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking. From 2002 to 2005, prosecutors say, he paid girls as young as 14 to have sex with him. Prosecutors also allege he paid some of the girls to recruit other victims. He faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted of both counts.
      In July, Wexner told L Brands (LB) employees that Epstein was his former personal money manager. Epstein also served as a trustee of the Wexner Foundation. The Wexner Foundation works to develop Jewish professional and volunteer leaders across North America and public leaders in Israel.
      Wexner became embroiled in the Epstein scandal when one of Epstein’s accusers said he sexually assaulted her in Wexner’s home, according to an affidavit filed in a New York court in April. The affidavit is part of a defamation lawsuit against high-profile attorney Alan Dershowitz, claiming that he made “false and malicious” statements about a woman who has accused Epstein. Dershowitz has repeatedly denied the accusations.

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      Journalists Under Attack

      In May 2019, WIRED joined the One Free Press Coalition, a united group of preeminent editors and publishers using their global reach and social platforms to spotlight journalists under attack worldwide. Today, the coalition is issuing its sixth monthly “10 Most Urgent” list of journalists whose press freedoms are being suppressed or whose cases demand justice.

      Paul Chouta, the Cameroon Web reporter who was arrested in May, denied bail, and charged with defamation and spreading false news. His case has been delayed until August 13 and he remains in a maximum-security prison. Aasif Sultan, a reporter for Kashmir Narrator, was arrested on “anti-state” charges and will have been imprisoned for one year on August 27. He has been repeatedly interrogated by police, demanding that he reveal his sources.

      Here is the August list, ranked in order of urgency:

      1. Jamal Khashoggi (Saudi Arabia): Stonewalling continues after new UN report implicates Saudi prince for journalist’s murder.

      Months after his brazen killing, and despite findings from the UN and the CIA that point to the Saudi crown prince’s involvement, there has been no independent criminal investigation. Calls for the White House to release intelligence reports have gone unheeded, along with a deadline to reply to Congress as required under the U.S. Global Magnitsky Act.

      2. Azory Gwanda (Tanzania): Tanzanian official claims missing journalist is dead—then backtracks.

      Azory Gwanda, a freelance journalist investigating mysterious killings in rural Tanzania, has been missing since November 21, 2017, and the government has failed to conduct an investigation or disclose what it knows. On July 10, Tanzanian Foreign Minister Palamagamba Kabudi said in an interview that Gwanda had “disappeared and died,” but backtracked amid requests for clarification.

      3. Juan Pardinas (Mexico): Mexican newspaper editor targeted with death threats for criticizing new president.

      Mexican media organizations and journalists have recently reported a sharp increase in threats and online harassment over critical reporting of the López Obrador administration. Juan Pardinas, the editor-in-chief of Mexican newspaper Reforma, received a barrage of online harassment and threats after President Andrés Manuel López Obrador criticized the newspaper in April. López Obrador acknowledged the threats against Pardinas and said that his government had offered protective measures to the journalist.

      4. Paul Chouta (Cameroon): Journalist in maximum security prison blocked from seeing family.

      Cameroon Web reporter Paul Chouta was arrested in May, denied bail, and charged with defamation and spreading false news. Chouta’s editor said he suspects the case was in retaliation for critical reporting. His case has been delayed until August 13 and he remains in a maximum-security prison.

      5. Azimjon Askarov (Kyrgyzstan): Kyrgyz court upholds life sentence for documenting human rights abuses.

      Award-winning journalist Azimjon Askarov, who is an ethnic Uzbek, has spent nine years in prison on trumped-up charges for his reporting on human rights violations. Despite persistent international condemnation and calls for his release, a Kyrgyz court that had reviewed his case in light of new legislation ruled to uphold his life sentence on July 30.

      6. Ayşe Nazlı Ilıcak (Turkey): Turkish journalist faces 30 years in solitary confinement.

      A commentator for opposition newspaper Özgür Düşünce and Can Erzincan TV, Ayşe Nazlı Ilıcak was arrested in 2016 and sentenced in February 2018 to life without parole for trying to overturn the constitution through her journalism. In a separate trial in January, she was sentenced to an additional five years for revealing state secrets. In Turkey, which has been the top jailer of journalists three years in a row, life sentences without parole equate to 30 years in solitary confinement, with limited visits.

      7. Marzieh Amiri (Iran): Imprisoned journalist denied healthcare after for covering May Day demonstrations.

      Iranian authorities arrested Marzieh Amiri, an economics reporter at Tehran-based newspaper Shargh Daily, as she covered May Day demonstrations, and her family has had limited contact with her since. Authorities have accused Amiri of committing crimes against national security without giving further details.

      8. Jones Abiri (Nigeria): Journalist re-arrested on terrorism and cybercrime charges.

      Jones Abiri, the publisher and editor-in-chief of the Weekly Source, is behind bars on charges under Nigeria’s cybercrimes act, anti-sabotage act, and terrorism prevention act for crimes allegedly carried out in 2016. The charges are the same ones that a court threw out after he was held without access to his family or a lawyer from 2016 to 2018.

      9. Aasif Sultan (India): Journalist imprisoned one year without due process for covering conflict.

      Aasif Sultan, a reporter for Kashmir Narrator, will have been imprisoned one year on August 27, arrested in 2018 and months later charged with “complicity” in “harboring known terrorists.” He has been repeatedly interrogated and asked to reveal his sources by police. Sultan continues to be denied due process, with ongoing delays in his hearings.

      10. Truong Duy Nhat (Vietnam): Blogger who disappeared in Thailand imprisoned in Vietnam.

      Truong Duy Nhat, a Vietnamese reporter with Radio Free Asia, went missing in January in Bangkok, Thailand, where he had applied for refugee status. In March, his daughter learned he was jailed without charge in a Hanoi detention center. Nhat was previously sentenced to two years in prison in 2013 in connection to his critical reporting on the government.

      According to CPJ research, the killers go unpunished in nine out of every 10 journalists murdered.

      The One Free Press Coalition contains 33 prominent international members including: AméricaEconomía; The Associated Press; Bloomberg News; The Boston Globe; BuzzFeed; CNN Money Switzerland; Corriere Della Sera; De Standaard; Deutsche Welle; Estadão; EURACTIV; The Financial Times; Forbes; Fortune; HuffPost; India Today; Insider Inc.; Le Temps; Middle East Broadcasting Networks; Office of Cuba Broadcasting; Quartz; Radio Free Asia; Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty; Republik; Reuters; The Straits Times; Süddeutsche Zeitung; TIME; TV Azteca; Voice of America; The Washington Post; WIRED; and Yahoo News.

      One Free Press Coalition partners with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) to identify the most-urgent cases for the list, which is updated and published on the first day of every month. News organizations throughout the world can join the Coalition by emailing info@onefreepresscoalition.com.


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