No One Can Muzzle Voice of Nigerians, Babangida Tells Sponsors of Hate Speech Bill

Former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), has warned the sponsors of the Hate Speech Bill not to try to muzzle Nigerians.

The former military president said the bill was inimical to the growth of the country and does not support the ideals of a democratic society.

Speaking during the visit of the national leadership of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) on Wednesday at his hilltop residence in Minna, the Niger State capital, Babangida said there is no basis for the ‘Hate Speech Bill’ before the National Assembly and no one can muzzle the voice of Nigerians.

READ: Afe Babalola Kicks Against Hate Speech Bill, Says Nigeria’s Democracy Under Threat

While noting that a similar bill was presented before the 8th National Assembly, IBB who advised against expressed surprise that the bill has resurfaced.

“There is no basis for this; now we are developing and we should be allowed to develop. If we make mistakes people can be cautioned; if somebody goes off, you have the right to call him to say ‘no we don’t want this,” he said.

Speaking further, the former leader noted that the government at all levels would only experience progress when people were able to express themselves on happenings in the country.

While stating that the only reason for the bill was that the sponsors wanted to show “eye service as we call it in the Army”, Babaginda also described the death penalty prescribed in the bill as “crude”.

“If somebody made hate speech and you put him in the gallows and shoot him, it is crude; it is not 21st century. It could have happened maybe some 300 years ago but not now.”

He, therefore, assured his visitors that he would join the NUJ and other stakeholders to protest against the passage of the bill.

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“I am with you on this; I will also talk to those of us who could be in position to bring sanity to bear on some of these things.”

Being an ardent follower of media publications on the forthcoming United States election, Babangida said journalists would have been jailed in Nigeria if that was the case.

While crediting himself with opening up the media space in the country, even when some of his colleagues opposed his policy, the former military leader said the country was better for it.

He, therefore, challenged the media to remain strong focussed on what Nigeria wants, adding that threatening freedom of speech with death threat or N10 million it sounded ‘silly’.

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