The furore over the controversial bill, “Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches”, took a new dimension on Monday as Senate denied the involvement of President Muhammadu Buhari in the bill.
The bill sponsored by Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, representing Niger North passed first reading penultimate.
The bill prescribed death penalty by hanging upon conviction for any person found guilty for any form of hate speech that results in the death of another person. The Bill defined hate speech as comments that insult people for their religion, ethnic, linguistic affiliation, racial contempt among others.
At a joint press briefing on Monday by Senator Abdullahi and the acting chairman Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Godiya Akwashiki dismissed the allegation that President Buhari was pushing the bill ahead of his alleged tenure extension project.
Senator Akwashiki said the allegation attributed to the National Legal Adviser of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Emmanuel Enoidem could not be substantiated.
He said the Bill was a private bill, not an Executive Bill.
He said: “I am happy the sponsor of the bill is here to clear the air. It is the right of the Senator to sponsor a private senator bill.
“The bill on Hate Speech before the Senate has nothing to do with the Executive and Mr President has nothing to do with it.
” The Hate Speech Bill before the Ninth Senate has nothing to do with third term allegation against the President, or Islamisation of the country. I want to make it clear before us, so we can educate members of the public, including political parties and their leaders,”
He said the Senate and indeed the entire National Assembly has no such agenda maintaining that the bill and all it represents was the views of its sponsor.
In his submission, Senator Abdullahi said a lot of Nigerians have called him to condemn the bill and sent text messages to deride his move.
The senator representing Niger East said he was not bothered by what he called demonisation of his bill as he maintained it was in the best interest of Nigerians.
He said:” I have listened to criticisms and condemnation of the bill, in all what they have said one beautiful thing that came to my mind is the fact that we are all united against hate, against all forms of discriminations and that everybody is concerned with the subject of death, nobody wants to see death being unleashed on anybody. And I think that is very fundamental.
“I am happy we are having this conversation as a nation. Like somebody wrote to me that over the past days since the bill was read, I have received all kinds of messages, including abuses but I am not bothered about that. In all of these, if I receive one commendation, it gladdens my heart and I since received many commendations but one stood. He said there is so much hate in this country, we must check it.”
He claimed those who have lost loved ones who were victims of incendiary remarks were in love with his bill.
“So, ladies and gentlemen, all isn’t lost, I an happy we are having this conversation and let us have it as responsible citizens. Whatever anybody will say, if you have never been a victim, or your loved one has never been a victim, then you have the luxury of making statements anyhow as far as this subject matter is concerned.
“But I bet you, if you meet those who have lost their loved ones, arising from violence due to ethnicity, or religious intolerance, I don’t think they will be smiling with you when you tell them hate speech is nonsense, or when you tell them hate speech doesn’t exist.
“They definitely know what hate speech is because they felt hate speech, they have seen it and they are living as victims of hate speech. So, for me, I believe laws are made to check those of us who will choose to go to the extreme, outside the area that we are supposed to operate, so that it serves as a deterrence. When laws are put in place, and no offences are committed, the law becomes redundant.
“But one thing I know in this country is this: those few instances where we had issues, the same Nigerians have gone out to make commentaries: what are our leaders doing? What is the national assembly doing and people are being killed for nothing and they are saying nothing! The only instrument we have is the instrument of legislation. I have taken the opportunity to look at this critical issue and people are demonizing me.”