THE Deputy Senate Chief Whip, Bali Abdullahi representing Niger North Senatorial district has explained the reasons behind the Hate Speech Bill he privately sponsored which has generated criticism from many Nigerians.
In a video posted on the official social media handle of the Nigerian Senate, he explained that he proposed the bill during the 8th Senate-Assembly but it couldn’t go for second reading because he noticed that the political atmosphere was charged.
Abdullahi said because of the sensitive nature of the bill, he felt it would not enjoy a fair conversation in the Senate so he put the bill on pending till the end of the 8th Senate Assembly.
Stressing the need for a bill on Hate Speech, Abdullahi said more than 20 countries have bills on hate speech including United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Japan, Germany, France among others.
According to Abdullahi, hate speech is increasingly becoming a problem and from his studies, the word ‘Hate Speech’ was coined by a United States scholar who looked at the hindrances of victims of hate speech to seek legal redress in a case of such.
“People who have fallen victim of hate speech are left like that without any restitution, without any compensation, without any recourse to seeking justice for them,” he said.
He added that from his readings on all the violence and crisis in Nigeria, he found out that most of them if not all were preceded by hate speech.
He said it is sad that people are shutting down the bill by amplifying death by hanging penalties for people who are found guilty of hate speech.
“The bill is not that when someone says anything that can be termed as hate speech then he should be hanged; it is far from the truth,” he added
The Senator added that in fact, there are statements that must be made and it also requires inviting the suspect and the other party so that they can broker peace and have understanding in a manner that the parties will be able to continue to relate with each other harmoniously.
Abdullahi added that he thinks the misunderstanding of the bill is justified and that it tells him that Nigeria is united in the understanding that death is not good.
He said since violence preceded by hate speech leads to death then it means it is bad and should be stopped.
“The idea of the bill is to have a body that can bring in parties involved in the exchange for dialogue or reconciliation,” he added
He said the bulk of people involved in the act are highly placed people because when they speak, a large majority of the people listen to it and they take action.
He painted a scenario where someone comes to a large gathering and say inciting statements about ethnicity or religion and is mobbed and killed
“The idea of the proposed Independent National Commission is to provide room for proper prosecution of hate speech offenders instead of risking an atmosphere where someone can say something inciting and might lead to a mob attack on the person,” Abdullahi noted.
He appealed to Nigerians, saying that they don’t have to be a victim before they can appreciate the need for the bill but insisted that there are Nigerians who have fallen victim and suffering in silence because of hate speech.
He said the bill is not a perfect document but a proposal before the National Assembly and they have the opportunity to contribute when it gets to a public hearing.
He also called on Nigerians to look at the bill, not from the standpoint of what they do not like about it, but they should look at its overall impact.