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Editorial

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The Bill at the Senate, seeking to introduce death penalty for anyone found guilty of hate speech that leads to death, has come as a thought-provoking legislation with far-reaching implications. Senator Aliyu Sabi-Abdullai had sponsored the Bill, which has already passed the first reading at the upper chamber.

The Bill at the Senate, seeking to introduce death penalty for anyone found guilty of hate speech that leads to death, has come as a thought-provoking legislation with far-reaching implications. Senator Aliyu Sabi-Abdullai had sponsored the Bill, which has already passed the first reading at the upper chamber.


The Bill, which also proposed the creation of an 'Independent National Commission for Hate Speeches,' could be viewed from two perspectives. Proponents of the Bill believe that it would be necessary to check the monumental losses that the country has suffered due to violent reactions to inciting statements.
While Nigerians believe that there is the need to sanitize the society by avoiding provocative statements that could lead to violence, we are clearly of the opinion that prescribing capital punishment for offenders is too harsh.
Under a government where politicians could use it as a pathway to infringing on the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, we consider it as draconian and a miscarriage of the rule of law. In our opinion, the extant laws in the Nigerian Constitution have already made provisions for rules to check hate speech. For instance, we have the laws of defamation, sedition and slander, which take care of issues relating to hate speech.
Also, Section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution provides for freedom of expression, even as there are remedies for civil and criminal penalties in proven cases of offensive statements or publications.
We therefore urge the Senate to consider amending the existing relevant laws to carry higher penalties that are in line with the United Nations Declaration and Africa Charter on the freedom of expression.
Nigeria Moment acknowledges that there is no absolute freedom anywhere in the world. However, we are concerned that the reason given by Senator Sabi-Abdullai for sponsoring the Bill could be interpreted to have self-serving motives.
Indications that the Bill, if passed into law, could be used to intimidate opponents appear to have been defined by the way journalists and bloggers are being intimidated, harassed and detained in recent times. We believe that the Bill could be wrongly deployed in dealing with perceived enemies, especially critics of government's obnoxious policies. In the last few months, some journalists and bloggers have been charged on frivolous grounds in order to cow them into submission. Using the proposed Hate Speech Bill or Cybercrimes Act, as the case may be, to intimidate journalists and bloggers is totally unacceptable, especially in a democratic setting.
We subscribe to the fact that any law that is capable of suppressing the freedom of expression is clearly anti-people. We charge governments at all levels to deliver on their electoral promises and ensure good governance across the country. This is the only way to minimize criticisms of government policies and further urge the All Progressives Congress, APC-led Federal Government to take immediate steps to address the growing insecurity, inequality, discrimination and nepotism in the deployment of resources, among others. This is necessary to avoid statements and publications that could be adjudged to be hate speech.

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