***Death penalty, other punitive terms very open to amendments
The Deputy Whip of the Senate, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, has said the Anti-hate Speech Bill presently before the National Assembly seeks to ensure justice for Nigerians who are victims of hate speech contrary to widespread speculations.
In a statement he issued in Abuja on Monday, the lawmaker explained that the bill would ensure justice for Nigerians who were wrongfully accused and killed.
Abdullahi disclosed that the lawmakers were already working in agreement to see that adjustments are made to the death penalty and other punitive terms contained in the bill.
The Senate’s Deputy Whip, who recalled the brutal murder of Tekena, Lloyd, Ugonna and Chidiaka in 2014, said the University of Port-Harcourt students were victims of hate speech.
According to him, the bill if passed into law without a death penalty would ensure justice for the victims and their families by ensuring that the perpetrators face the weight of the law accordingly.
He added that the proposed bill seeks to protect the lives of Nigerians against undue manipulations by mischievous elements in society.
The lawmaker debunked insinuations that the bill was targeted at giving President Muhammadu Buhari Administration a third term in office, describing the insinuation as a smear campaign by political merchants who do not wish Nigeria well.
Abdullahi also bemoaned the increasing rate of suicides and depression among Nigerian youths, attributing the development to societal values which breed intense hate.
He, however, stated that the death penalty for anyone found culpable of using hate speech that leads to the death of another, is an aspect that will be subject to an amendment when the bill is eventually considered and goes through a public hearing.
“The death penalty is not definite like some Nigerians are making it seem. In the National Assembly, bills go through legislative processes. The concerns on the death penalty are genuine and will be amended accordingly.
During these processes, amendments are made to fine-tune the bill in meeting with existing realities.
“Therefore, the hate speech bill will go through these processes to ensure Nigerians get the best out of the proposed bill,” Senator Abdullahi said.
“If passed, the bill will ensure justice for Nigerians who are silent victims of hate speech. As we speak, statistics show that so many Nigerians are depressed and suicidal. This is as a result of the way our society is presently wired.
“We live in a hate-filled society in Nigeria and need an existing law to address this. In Kenya, they found the need to address the associated Ills of hate speech and they are now better for it with the introduction of laws in that direction.
“In 2014, if you recall, four university of Port Harcourt students were unjustly murdered in cold blood as a result of hate speech. So many others have died as a result of wrong accusations. It is time to put a stop to these gruesome killings through hate speech,” Abdullahi said.