Confusion as Senator Abdullahi’s Hate Speech Bill resurfaces at Senate

• Proposes death penalty for offenders

Barely a week after a controversial bill to regulate the social media and punish its abuses was presented for first reading, another bill to curtail hate speeches passed first reading on Tuesday on the floor of the Red Chamber.

The social media regulation bill titled Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill, 2019 was sponsored last week by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa, representing Niger East.

Incidentally, the sponsor of the new bill, National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches was another senator from the same North Central state, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, representing Niger North.

The new bill was introduced by the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, APC, Kebbi North and affirmed by the Clerk of the Senate, Nelson Ayewor.

Tribune Online findings revealed that the new bill was initially sponsored in the 8th Senate by the same Senator Abdullahi.

In his last attempt, the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate sought for the establishment of an ‘Independent National Commission for Hate Speeches’, which shall enforce hate speech laws across the country, ensure the elimination of the menace and advise the Federal Government.

The old 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.

Further checks by Tribune Online revealed that the Senate Committee on Rules and Business, which has the responsibility of reproducing and circulating Bills and Motions to lawmakers was yet to have a copy of the new Bill.

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The new Bill under a new nomenclature, however, maintained the death penalty prescribed in the old bill.

The old bill, Tagged ‘Independent National Commission for Hate Speeches’, has the objectives of ensuring the elimination of all forms of hate speeches; promoting the elimination of all forms of hate speeches against persons or ethnic groups; as well as advising the Federal Government on the matter.

The Bill states that: “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 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 further stated 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.”

And “for offences like harassment on the basis of ethnicity, racial contempt, the bill proposes not less than five-year jail term or a fine of not less than N10 million or both.”

The Commission would be headed by an executive chairperson to be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the National Council of State, subject to the confirmation of at least two-third majority of the National Assembly.

Other functions of the Commission would include: discouraging persons, institutions, political parties and associations from advocating or promoting discrimination or discriminatory practices through the use of hate speeches; promoting tolerance, understanding and acceptance of diversity in all aspects of national life and encourage full participation by all ethnic communities in social, economic, cultural and political life of other communities.

The Commission before the bill was aborted, was to plan, supervise, coordinate and promote educational and training programs to create public awareness, support and advancement of peace and harmony among ethnic communities and racial groups.

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