The sponsor of the controversial Hate Speech Bill, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, on Sunday bowed to pressure as he declared that he would remove death penalty as the maximum punishment for offenders in the proposed legislation.
Abdullahi, who is the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, in a statement in Abuja, explained that the death (by hanging) penalty proposed for anyone found culpable of hate speech which leads to the death of another, would be amended by the Senate when the bill would be debated by the National Assembly members.
Senator Sabi in a statement on Sunday explained that the bill will be fine-tuned to ensure that the clauses contained in its provisions to be passed into law, reflect the views of Nigerians when it goes through legislative input by the National Assembly.
The bill was read on the floor of the Senate on November 12 and Deputy Chief Whip who sponsored the legislation stated that it will address the dangers hate speech poses for the country.
The Bill defines the act of Hate speech as, 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 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 person from such an ethnic group in Nigeria.
It adds that: 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 added that contributions and inputs by critics and supporters of the bill will be welcomed by the Senate.
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 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 fuelled so many killings and violence, and is responsible for cases of depression and suicides.”
The lawmaker explained that the Independent National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech to be established will guard against every act of discrimination against Nigerians by way of victimization.
The Commission, according to Abdullahi, 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.”