Proposed Hate Speech Bill: Matters Arising
By Jude Chukwuemeka
The 9th Assembly of the Senate on Tuesday 12th November re-introduced the “National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches Bill 2019” seeking to establish a federal government agency that will check hate speech in Nigeria.
The bill is sponsored by the Deputy Senate Whip, Sabi Abdullahi (a former Senate spokesperson) and it has passed first reading on the floor of the red chamber on Tuesday.
Recall that the hate speech was first sponsored by the now Deputy Senate Abdullahi when he was the Senate spokesperson at the 8th Assembly (between 2015 and 2019). But the bill prescribed among others, death by hanging for anyone found guilty of the offence.
The bill “could not survive the second reading due to overwhelming opposition and criticisms from the civil society groups and the media” at the time as Punch reports indicated.
In a 2017 speech themed Hate Speeches, Fake News and National Unity, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed said “the dangers posed by the menace of…hate speech, disinformation and fake news, are all capable of destabilizing the system, inciting people to violence and weakening the people’s confidence in their government.”
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said hate speech "will not be tolerated, it will be taken as an act of terrorism and all of the consequences will follow,”.
The hate speech bill which came just a week after Anti-Social Media Bill was introduced has the following functions as reported by PremiumTimes in part; “...Discourage persons, institutions, political parties and associations from advocating or promoting discrimination or discriminatory practices through the use of hate speeches, promote respect for religions, cultural, linguistic and other forms of diversity in a plural society, investigate complaints of ethnic or racial discrimination, among other functions targeted to deal with ethnicity biases in the country.”
Morning Crossfire first takes a look at the information from Nigeria Info FM correspondent, Georges MacNobleson in Kogi State, who reports regarding events in Kogi, leading to Saturday’s guber elections. One spectacular thing evident is that policemen are already deployed for security reasons. There’s also been an incident of a policeman shooting into the air.
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Kolawole Oluwadare, Deputy Director at Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) adds his voice as a concern for the bill. “There are questions we need to ask. Why was the Bill rejected? What are the contents of the Bill? What describes the offence? When you look at the ways our laws are put out, you will see that we need to look at these laws very well.
“So, when you look at this Bill, what is it trying to address? Do we really need a commission to address this? Do we not have agencies already in place to address this? It is not enough to punish. We have to be careful to look at the people who publish hate speech and the people they may be targeting those hate speeches at.”
He continues to say he believes that all the moves of government to create new Bills are directed at stifling freedom of expression. Nigerians must be interested in the contents of these Bills before they should be passed into law and then made available to the public.
Accordingly, Kolawole asks: “Who would have thought that the Cybercrime Bill will turn to what it is today, being used to hinder the works of journalists?”
What is hate speech?
Suggest ways that the Nigerian govt could exploit in order to make prohibitions of Hate Speech legislation more liberal to citizens.
What are possible occurences when people are unable to freely articulate views where freedom of expression exist?
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Kolawole Oluwadare - Deputy Director at SERAP (Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project) Lawyer/Public AffairAnalyst.
PROPOSED HATE SPEECH BILL: MATTERS ARISING
Morning Crossfire with Wemimo Adewuni (@wemimospot) & Sheriff Quadry (@SheriffQuadry)