- Death penalty, other sanctions open to amendment
BY VICTOR OSOWOCHI, ABUJA – Deputy Whip of the Nigerian Senate, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, says contrary to misgivings in certain quarters, the Anti-hate Speech Bill currently before the National Assembly (NASS) is seeking justice and protection for all Nigerians.
He said when passed into law, innocent Nigerians, who are victims of hate speech, will be the eventual beneficiaries of the legislation that has remained a a subject of widespread speculations in the public domain.
According to the Niger State-born lawmaker, the bill would ensure justice for all Nigerians who have been wrongfully accused and killed over the years.
A statement issued in Abuja on Monday by Senator Abdullahi said lawmakers are already working in agreement to effect necessary adjustments on the punitive terms and death penalty as contained in the proposed law.
Recalling the brutal murder of Tekena, Lloyd, Ugonna and Chidiaka in 2014, the Deputy Whip said the four University of Port Harcourt students, killed in their prime, were victims of hate speech.
“In 2014, if you recall, four university of Port Harcourt students were unjustly murdered in cold blood as a result of hate speech. So many others have died as a result of wrong accusations. It is time to put a stop to these gruesome killings through hate speech,” Abdullahi said.
He explained that if passed into law without a death penalty, it would ensure justice for the victims and their families as perpetrators of such dastardly act would be made to face full weight of the law.
Senator Abdullahi, who insisted that the proposed bill seeks to protect the lives of Nigerians against undue manipulations by mischievous elements in society, also dismissed insinuations that it is targeted at giving President Muhammadu Buhari Administration a third term in office.
The lawmaker described such claims as a smear campaign by political merchants that do not wish Nigeria well, even as he expressed concerns over the increasing rate of suicides and depression among Nigerian youths.
Abdullahi, while attributing the ugly development to societal values which breed intense hate, however said the death penalty for anyone found culpable of using hate speech that leads to the death of another, is an aspect that will be subject to an amendment when the bill is eventually considered and goes through a public hearing.
His statement further explained that; “The death penalty is not definite like some Nigerians are making it seem. In the National Assembly, bills go through legislative processes. The concerns on the death penalty are genuine and will be amended accordingly.
“During these processes, amendments are made to fine-tune the bill in meeting with existing realities. Therefore, the hate speech bill will go through these processes to ensure Nigerians get the best out of the proposed bill,” the Senator said.
Offering further insights, Senator Abdullahi said; “If passed, the bill will ensure justice for Nigerians who are silent victims of hate speech. As we speak, statistics show that so many Nigerians are depressed and suicidal. This is as a result of the way our society is presently wired.
“We live in a hate-filled society in Nigeria and need an existing law to address this. In Kenya, they found the need to address the associated Ills of hate speech and they are now better for it with the introduction of laws in that direction.”