Saturday, 16 November 2019

APC Senators Vow To Pass Death For Hate Speech Bill

Sponsors of the controversial bills targeted at regulating social media and hate speech in Nigeria,  senators Sani Musa and Sabi Abdullahi, have vowed not to withdraw the bills despite the public outcry that greeted the proposed legislation.

The All Progressives Congress lawmakers from Niger State, in separate interviews in Abuja, insisted that the bills were intended to create a society that would serve the overall interest of Nigerians.

Abdullahi, the Deputy Chief Whip, wondered why Nigerians who had yet to read the contents of the bills – which he said sought to establish a national commission on hate speech – were condemning them.

He argued that Nigeria needed such bills at its current stage of development.

The ex-Senate spokesperson said, “I will not drop the bill. In the first instance, I sponsored this bill of my own volition. Nobody asked me to do so. I did all the research and I have my strong reasons for coming up with this.

“There is a stage in our development as a country that we have reached where we have to have caution. I’m not doing this out of ignorance. We need this law at this stage of our development.

“The bill on its own did not create any outrage. The bill is suffering from hate speech already because people have misinterpreted it. Simply because you read ‘death by hanging’ without reading the context, you have started making comments. Is it possible to just hang a human being?”

Musa also vowed to go ahead with his own Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill 2019, which seeks to regulate the messages being posted on the Internet, notwithstanding the stiff opposition against it.

The senator told our correspondent that his bill was desirable, unlike the hate speech bill which already has existing legislation that could tackle it.

Musa said, “My bill is different from the hate speech bill. As far as I know, we have legislation that can tackle hate speech. My bill can also tackle hate speech because if you know that you are going to say something that is not true, you will think of the consequences.

“There is a  difference between my bill and the hate speech bill. I may come out to say something that is against your tradition; it is left for you to prove that the statement has made people look down on you at the court of law.

“The aim and objective of my bill are to prevent the transmission of false statements, or a declaration of facts, knowing full well that those facts are not true in Nigeria.

“It would enable measures to be taken to counter the efforts of such transmissions and also to suppress the financing, promotion and support of online locations that repeatedly transmit false statements.”

The senator insisted his bill was not to suppress opposition voices in the country.

He said, “If more advanced and complex countries than Nigeria could regulate their social media usage and make their online space more credible, what stops us from doing the same?

“Some people, simply because they want to have many clicks on their sites in order to have some advantage over others, would take the picture of the President and that of a female minister and say they are getting married.

“The implication of all these is that they affect the credibility of the country and that is what we want to safeguard. We are not doing this to gag the press at all.

“We want the press to be our partners. We want the press to see our shortcomings and expose them because they are facts. I don’t want the press to see this bill as if it is being targeted at them.”

Asked how he would feel if his bill was rejected by the stakeholders and also on the floor of the Senate just like what happened to a similar one introduced in the 8th Senate, Musa said he was ready to welcome any opposition.

“I don’t expect the process of the bill passage to go smoothly. I expect to have opposition, people who would say they don’t want it,” he said.


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