Hate speech bill: Senator succumbs to pressure over death penalty

The sponsor of the controversial hate speech bill, Aliyu Abdullahi, has promised to amend the document to ensure the death penalty aspect was yanked off according to the wishes of Nigerians.

In a statement on Sunday in Abuja, Abdullahi said having listened to criticisms of the bill by Nigerians, that the bill would be amended to reflect the views of Nigerians.

He went further to say that the Senate would accept contributions and input by critics and supporters of the bill as that would go a long way in giving Nigerians the law to address the “disturbing trend” of hate speech.

The lawmaker said, “We have followed closely arguments for and against the hate speech bill, and seen the reason why some kicked against it. Given the high respect which we have for Nigerians, we will make an amendment to the death penalty aspect that most Nigerians objected to so that a bill that meets their expectations are passed into law,” he said.

“Clearly from the conversations, Nigerians agree that we have a problem in the society today as a result of hate speech which has fueled so many killings and violence, and is responsible for cases of depression and suicides,” he said.

Abdullahi cited a World Health Organisation report that said Nigeria, the seventh-largest country in the world “has Africa’s highest rate of depression and ranks fifth in the world frequency of suicide.”

According to the senator, the Independent National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech to be established would guard against every act of discrimination against Nigerians by way of victimisation.

He added, “The bill provides that those qualified to be appointed as members of the commission must not be: members of the National Assembly or any government in authority at the local, state or federal levels.”

He also said that any person, who is a member of any political party or known to be affiliated with partisan politics, or has promoted sectional, ethnic, religious causes or openly advocated partisan ethnic positions or interest, stands disqualified from being appointed to serve on the commission.

He said, “The overall concern is to curb violence and unnecessary loss of lives and livelihoods of Nigerians due to hate-induced violence.”