Governors Reject Proposed Death Penalty For Hate Speech

Governors Reject Proposed Death Penalty For Hate Speech   

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum on Wednesday rejected the proposed death penalty for hate speech in the bill at the National Assembly.

The governors spoke at the end of their seventh meeting in Abuja, which was presided over by the Vice-Chiarman of the NGF and Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal.

Answering questions from journalists, Tambuwal urged the National Assembly to conduct a public hearing on the hate speech bill to aggregate the views of Nigerians.

He said, “I’m not sure I have heard any governor come out to say he is in support of the death penalty for hate speech.

“I believe that the National Assembly should hold a public hearing on that bill, so that due process of lawmaking is followed.

“This is so that the views of Nigerians, not just the governors, will be well captured on that bill and they (National Assembly) should respect the views of Nigerians in whatever may be the direction of debate and the eventual passage or otherwise of that bill.”

The Senate, had on Tuesday last week, introduced the hate speech  bill, which among others, prescribed death by hanging as the  maximum punishment for certain categories of offenders.

The bill, which is being sponsored by a former Senate spokesperson, who is now the Deputy Senate Whip, Sabi Abdullahi, passed first reading on the floor of the Red Chamber on November 13. It is titled, ‘National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech (Estb.etc) Bill, 2019’.

Abdullahi had sponsored a similar bill in the 8th Senate, but it could not survive the second reading due to overwhelming opposition and criticisms from civil society groups and the media.

Besides the death penalty, offenders are  liable to a 10-year jail term or risk N10m fine, especially, those who stir ethnic hatred by their speeches.

The Nigerian Bar Association, civil rights groups and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar had kicked against the bill.

The NBA National Publicity Secretary, Kunle Edun, had cautioned the Senate to “tread carefully” with the bill.

He had said, “We, therefore, strongly advise that the Senate should tread carefully on this bill.

“Section 39(3) of the Constitution makes it mandatory that no law can abrogate the rights of Nigerians to exercise their right to freedom of speech, except if such a law can be reasonably justified in a democratic society. ‘Can a hate bill be reasonably justified in a democratic society?”

But the Senate disowned the bill on Monday, saying it was an idea of the sponsor, Abdullahi. The Niger State senator said he had received threat messages over the bill.

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