Senate offers clarifications on hate speech bill

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

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Nigerian Senate says the re-introduction of the Anti- Hate Speech Bill was not designed to Islamism Nigerians as being speculated  by various interests in the country.
It also dismissed the insinuations  that the controversial bill is aimed at gagging opposition against alleged  third term agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari as indicated in some sections of the media.
Spokesman of the senate Senator Godiya Akwashiki, stated these on Monday, during a news conference to clarify the issues generating controversy with the bill.
Senator Akwashiki also said the bill did not emanate from the executive arm of government, stressing that it was a private bill sponsored by a senator.
According to him, the hate speech bill, like other bills, will pass through many stages before it is eventually passed and signed into law.
He stressed that the bill had nothing to do with the executive or President Muhammad  Buhari Islamising  the country.
Also offering clarifications on the bill, a former spokesman of the senate, Senator Abdullahi Sabi, who sponsored the hate speech bill, said the bill had a lot of modifications to go through in the parliament before it will eventually become a law.
He recalled how he had sponsored the bill in the 8th senate during which it elapsed with the life of the  8th senate, explaining that the bill was never killed or shut down as being insinuated.
Senator Abdullahi noted that hate speech had been the bane of peaceful co-existence among Nigerians in which many innocent persons have been killed in violence occasioned  by hate speech.
He said the death by hanging  penalty  been  advocated in the bill would  be at the discretion of the judge presiding over a hate speech induced case.
According to him, “there are other lesser punishments stipulated in the bill other than death by handing, and the capital punishment would  be applied only when the case has been proved beyond every reasonable doubts”.
The deputy chief whip of the senate, said nothing stops him from doing his work as a senator, given the independent status of the parliament as an organ of government.
Senator Sabi further argued that “many countries have been facing their respective challenges to unity and security, adding that the greatest threat to Nigeria’s unity  was hate speech and speeches demeaning peoples religion  and ethnic origin.”
He said  the bill was  designed to check  religious and  ethnic  violence that  had resulted in the death of many Nigerians,noting that such  violence had its root cause on hate speeches.
 “The introduction of the bill was not targeted at gagging free speech in the country  as being   speculated  by some Nigerians,” he emphasised.
Senator Abdullahi said he would not go back on the bill saying that he expects robust debate on the  various stages of the bill presentation.
“The bill is necessary and I have done my part, and it is going to go through process of hearing,if Nigerians decides to drop it so be it,what we are doing is a national duty,” he said.
He said information across the country  showed that  hate speech  had received condemnation among Nigerians, noting that he was happy that the conversation on hate speech had received serious attention.
Omolayo.A