Death Penalty Hate Speech Bill: Senator Recants
…removes murderous clause from bill
Conscience-stricken sponsor of the controversial Hate Speech Bill which carries death penalty, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, on Sunday declared that his proposed legislation would be amended to remove death clause as the maximum punishment for offenders.
Condemnation had trailed the bill across the world and consequently, the senator has bowed to public pressure.
“The death (by hanging) penalty proposed for anyone found culpable of hate speech which leads to the death of another, will be amended by the Senate when the bill is subjected to legislative input by the National Assembly,’’ Abdullahi, the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, said in a statement in Abuja.
The senator represents Niger North Senatorial District in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly.
He promised that the bill would undergo some “fine-tuning’’ to ensure that the clauses contained in its provisions to be passed into law reflect the views of Nigerians.
The Senate, he said, welcomes contributions and inputs by critics and supporters of the bill during public hearing on it before passage.
According to him, such contributions will go a long way towards giving Nigerians the much awaited law to address the disturbing trend of hate speech.
He insisted that hate speech had led to the death of many people and argued that the concept remained a major factor behind depression and suicide in Nigeria.
“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 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, ’’ Abdullahi said.
The lawmaker noted that Nigeria which is the seventh-largest country in the world “has Africa’s highest rate of depression and ranks fifth in the world frequency of suicide, citing a World Health Organisation report.
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 and will have an executive chairperson, a secretary and 12 commissioners appointed through 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.
“In order to protect the independence of the commission, 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.
“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.
“The overall concern is to curb violence and unnecessary loss of lives and livelihoods of Nigerians due to hate-induced violence.”