[UPDATE] Hate Speech Bill: Hate crimes law already exists ― FG

• Releases N600b for capital expenditure

The Federal Government, on Wednesday, appeared to distance itself from the bill under consideration in the Senate, which seeks the death penalty for hate speech, as it believes that laws already exist on the subject.

Briefing State House correspondents after a meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had been asked to give the government’s perspective on the bill sponsored by former Senate spokesman, Abdullahi Sabi.

However, Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemi Saraki, who joined the briefing chose to answer the question, saying that the Senate bill was a mere proposal.

She said that the fact that the bill prescribes death penalty does not mean it will necessarily pass like that

In any case, she said, the nation already has Cyber Crimes (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc Act, 2015) which takes care of hate speech.

She said: “Let me just address the issue on hate crime and the bill before the National Assembly. Like you rightly said it’s a bill, it’s not yet law. So, the sponsor of the bill might have might have put the death penalty there.

“I think we are jumping the gun a bit. Like you said, he is proposing the bill is not yet an act.

“Be that as it may, I think the Cybercrime Act, there is a law already in Nigeria, the cybercrime act that has the hate speech aspect in it…there is a law. I stand to be corrected.

“I think it was passed 2014/2015. I am not particularly sure but there is a law that takes care of… Because cybercrime is now a major issue and as you know internationally, the world over, everybody is concerned about it being the new frontier to fight crime.

“So hate speech is within that cybercrime aspect.”

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“However, the Act also prescribes the death penalty for an offence committed against a system or network that has been designated critical national infrastructure of Nigeria that results in the death of an individual (amongst other punishments for lesser crimes).

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, In her remark,  revealed that more than N600 billion has been released for capital expenditure under the 2019 budget with power, works and housing given priority.

Asked to respond to claim by Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, about lack of budget releases for road infrastructure, the minister explained: “It gives me an opportunity to state that the Minister of Works and Housing has a proposed budget of N247 billion for the year 2020 and the greatest component of this budget is the fixing of Nigerian roads.

“It is true that we are not able to fund the budget 100 per cent, but whenever we release funds for capital projects, the Ministry of Power, the Ministry of Works and Housing is always the priority and also the Ministry of Transport.

“Our fiscal space is tight, resources are limited because revenues are underperforming, but at the time we have resources, funds to release, the highest proportion goes to Power, Transport, World and Housing.”

She added: “In October, when the President was submitting the budget to the National Assembly, he had indicated that he had given a directive that we should release N600 billion for capital expenditure, we have already more than that, the target for us is to be able to release up to N900 billion by December but right now we are at about N650 billion capita release so far.”

Ahmed also said FEC has approved the additional share capital granted Nigeria by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), an arm of the World Bank Group.

She said the approval followed the memo she presented to the council on the additional capital increase.

The new capital increase was earlier adopted in October 2018 raising Nigeria’s capital by 3230 shares both for general and selected capital increases

According to the minister, the new increase brings Nigeria’s share capital at the Bretton wood institution to a total share capital of $50,637,747.60 million.

“This additional subscription by the Bretton Woods institution is necessary to strengthen the county’s position in the global financial architecture,” Ahmed said.

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