A bill against hate speech which was abandoned under pressure in the eighth National Assembly imposed death penalty on “any person found guilty of any form of hate speech that results in the death of another person.” The Senate dropped the move due to massive outcry from Nigerians. However, recently came the bill’s reintroduction, tagged, “National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech”, sponsored by the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Abdullahi Aliyu Sabi (APC, Niger State).
The bill stipulates: “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.” On 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.
Incidentally, the bill runs counter of the provisions of Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution which guarantee freedom of expression.
Besides, “Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Nigeria is a signatory to this international instrument.” Accordingly, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, also domesticated in Nigeria, reinforces this inalienable freedom that the NASS is attempting to disrobe and destroy.
The bill is an ill-intentioned, ill-conceived, ill-digested and dictatorial and absolutist piece of nonsensical legislation waiting to consume all of us. What made me laugh part of the bill which prescribes death by hanging but forgot that the nation’s constitution already deals with this issue under the law of libel and defamation, enough to handle hate speech.
The Senate’s introduction of a bill seeking to establish a federal government agency to check hate speech in the country shows how they are always prepared to waste public funds at the slightest opportunity. There are enough agencies and laws to take care of hate speech. Our problem is not the availability of laws or agencies but the implementation and enforcement of the laws by the existing agencies.
For whatever it is worth, the Senate had better know that the Nigerian constitution has a binding force on them and that any law they pass that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Nigerian constitution that guarantee freedom of speech and expression will be null and void to the extent of that inconsistency. What Nigerians want is to see a bill tagged “National Commission for the Prohibition of Corruption and Looting. The bill should state that, “Any public official who commits an offence of corruption or looting public funds under this section shall be liable to public execution or death by hanging publicly.” In another part of the bill, there should be a need for the creation of a special court so that it will handle all corruption cases apart from our conventional courts while the Judiciary, police and the DSS need to be strengthened in line with the bill.
This is a bill Nigerians expect to see. We want to see our lawmakers get tougher on corruption and insecurity, on secret employments, poor health facilities etc which may require that you isolate this debilitating scourge from politics. Believe me, what you do from now on as lawmakers will determine whether this nation will be strong enough to deal with challenges of the future, or it will go under because its cumulative problems have been left unattended to by our leaders and lawmakers.
I am sure this bill will deal with secret recruitment in every government employment drive such as the NNPC, the CBN, the NCC, SEC to mention but a few, where recruitments were conducted secretly and only the children of the well-to-do Nigerians were given offers without due process being followed while those of the poor who spent several hours in the polling stations remain jobless. Nigerians witnessed many cases of corruption committed by government officials who diverted public funds to personal use.
If our lawmakers consider the need for the upcoming national commission for the prohibition of corruption and looting bill, we want it to be tabled before the house as a bill for urgent national importance. I am sure Nigerians will be delighted with the Senate on this part. President Muhammadu Buhari will gladly assent the bill into law because it will be in line with his administration’s war on corruption.
Dukawa writes via [email protected]