Sponsor of Hate Speech Bill Bows to Pressure, Sets to Fine Tune Provisions

The lawmaker representing Niger North Senatorial District, Sabi Abdullahi, has said that his controversial Hate Speech Bill, which proposed “death by hanging” for offenders, would be reworked to suit the wishes of Nigerians before passage.

Abdullahi, who is the deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, had earlier said the wishes of Nigerian would triumph at the end of the day.

It could be recalled that the Bill titled: “National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches (Establishment, etc.) Bill, 2019,” had scaled first reading in the Senate on November 12, 2019.

READ: The Intention of Hate Speech Bill Is to Ensure Nigeria Remains United – Sabi Abdullahi

According to to Bill,“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.

“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.”

Earlier, Senator Abdullahi, despite a barrage of attacks against the Bill by Nigerians, had insisted that he would soon lead the debate for the second reading of the Bill at plenary.

The lawmaker, however, in a statement released in Abuja on Sunday, said the Bill would now undergo some fine-tuning to ensure that the clauses contained in its provisions to be passed into law reflect the views of Nigerians.

He added that the Senate welcomed contributions and inputs by critics and supporters of the Bill, as these would go a long way towards giving Nigerians the much-awaited law to address the disturbing trend of hate speech.

According to hi, hate speech has led to the death of many and is a major factor behind depression and suicide in Nigeria.

“We have followed arguments for and against the hate speech bill closely, 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 is passed into law.

“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.”

READ: Hate Speech Bill: Is Killing What The Society About?, Wole Soyinka Asks Lawmakers

While explaining that 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 victimization, the lawmaker said 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.

According to Abdullahi, the commission will have an executive chairperson, a secretary and twelve commissioners appointed through a rigorous process involving the National Council of State, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the National Assembly.

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

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