Written by Laraba Murey

Hate speech bill: Sponsor backtracks on death penalty

The sponsor of the controversial Hate Speech Bill, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, has finally bowed to pressure from well-meaning Nigerians as he declared on Sunday that his proposed legislation would be amended to remove death penalty as the maximum punishment for offenders.

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 is subjected to legislative input by the National Assembly.

The former spokesperson for the Senate said the bill would undergo some fine-tuning to ensure that the clauses contained in its provisions to be passed into law, reflect the views of Nigerians.

He added that the Senate welcomes contributions and inputs by critics and supporters of the bill.

He said such contributions would go a long way towards giving Nigerians the much awaited law to address the disturbing trend of hate speech.

He insisted that hate speech had led to the death of many people and argued that the concept remained a major factor behind depression and suicide in Nigeria.

Abdullahi said, “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 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 fueled so many killings and violence, and is responsible for cases of depression and suicides.”

The proposed commission according to him, would have an executive chairperson, a secretary and 12 commissioners appointed through 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.

He said, “In order to protect the independence of the commission, the bill provides that those qualified to be appointed as members of the commission must not be members of the National Assembly or any government in authority at the local, state or federal levels.”

The lawmaker added that any person, who is a member of any political party or known to be affiliated with partisan politics, or has promoted sectional, ethnic, religious causes or openly advocated partisan ethnic positions or interest, stands disqualified from being appointed to serve on the commission.

“The overall concern is to curb violence and unnecessary loss of lives and livelihoods of Nigerians due to hate-induced violence,” Abdullahi added.

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