Nigeria: Senator Who Sponsored 'Hate Speech' Bill Says He's Receiving Threats

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19 November 2019

The senator who reintroduced the bill that seeks to penalise hate speech claims he has been receiving threatening messages after the first reading of the bill.

Aliyu Abdullahi said this during a press briefing in Abuja on Monday.

He, however, said he is not a coward and will not back down from his decision to push for the law.

The National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech Bill was reintroduced in the Senate on November 12.

It prescribes the death penalty for anyone found guilty of spreading falsehood that leads to the death of another person.

PREMIUM TIMES reported the full provisions of the bill.

A similar bill was introduced to the Senate in March 2018 for consideration and passage. It, however, did not make it through to third reading.

The reintroduction of the bill has generated controversies among Nigerians.

Some civic groups and political parties have kicked against the bill because of its narrow and unclear definition of what constitutes hate speech.

A former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, has also cautioned Nigerian senators against passing the bill.

Although Mr Abdullahi did not state the kind of threats he has been receiving, he vowed not to "shy away from his responsibility."

"Like somebody wrote to me, over the past ten days or so since the bill was read for the first time, I have received all kinds of messages some even including threats. But I am not bothered about that. In all of these, if I receive one commendation, it gladdens my heart and I did receive many commendations and one stood out and said there is so much hate in this country. We must check it.

"If you meet those who have lost their loved ones arising from religious or ethnicity, intolerance, and the like, I don't think they will be smiling with you when you tell them hate speech is nonsense or does not exist. They have felt, seen and are living as victims of hate speech," he said.

Explaining why the bill was not passed in the eight Senate, Mr Abdullahi said he did not pursue the bill because at the time the political atmosphere was already getting charged after the first reading of the bill.

"I reckon in my thinking that the atmosphere was not right for even debating the subject matter because, at the end of the day, we will be missing the point. So I did not pursue it.

"On assessing the reason why I introduced the bill in the 8th senate in the first instance, I have seen that these reasons are not abated. If anything, they are actually assuming a life of their own. So I decided that this bill be reintroduced and it was on the 12th of this month."

The lawmaker said when laws are put in place and no offence is committed, those laws become redundant.

He said he has taken the opportunity to take on a very critical subject matter yet some people have turned him into a monster.

"They will demonise me, I am not moved because this is the subject of life and no one buys life in the market. Nobody came with a spare."

Bill not for Buhari's third term agenda

The Acting Senate Spokesperson, Godiya Akwashiki, also said that the bill was not a collaboration between the Senate and President Muhammadu Buhari to run for a third term.

He referred to a comment by the National Legal Adviser of the Peoples Democratic Party, Emmanuel Enoidem, who said the bill is insulting to the country.

"It is the right of the senator to sponsor a bill tagged 'private senator bill' even if we have executive bill. But the hate speech bill before the senate is a private senator bill.

"Mr President has nothing to do with this issue. It has nothing to do with a third term agenda. It has nothing to do with islamising this country. Spokesmen of political parties should mind the way they speak. We should be peace lovers and peace keepers," he said.

He also said there is nothing for Nigerians to be afraid of in the hate speech bill.

"The bill was just read for the first time, it will go back for the second reading and you and I have the opportunity to speak for or against the bill. Why are we afraid of the bill? When a bill comes to the National Assembly, it is not every aspect that will be taken, it depends on what you and I present during the public hearing."

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