THE Nigerian Senate last Tuesday reintroduced that controversial hate speech bill that was thrown away by the Eight Assembly, a bill which seeks to penalize persons found guilty of hate speech, even by hanging.
THE whole thing sounds so obnoxious, draconian and an outright abusive, but apparently an attempt at imposition in order to gag the freedom of expression. The question on the lips of most Nigerians is, what has this very government done about Boko Haram terrorism, the genocidal killings by Fulani herdsmen, the spate of kidnappings which ought to have been the priority of our political leaders?
COMING with frenzy, from the nexus of our political leadership, the National Assembly, seem to portray the impression that they have everything they want to hide from critical and informed Nigerians who would want to be at liberty to make commentary on matters that affect them.
HATE Speech is said to be a speech that attacks a person or a group on the basis of protected attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, disability. The debate over freedom of speech, hate speech and hate speech legislation has been a ceaseless one.
NIGERIANS, across the length and breadth of the country have jointly risen to condemn such a bill, saying that the attempt to capture hate speech in legal reform is certainly going to limit civil rights and freedom of expression, which is coterminous to tightening a noose on the freedom of expression. Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Senior Advocates of Nigeria(SANs) NGOs, and civil society organizations amongst many others have severally risen up in condemnation of such a bill.
WE feel very strongly that the move by the National Assembly to represent the rejected bill, is counter to freedom of expression as well as counter to the journalism profession, and by extension, the right to free speech by the ordinary citizens.
IN Nigeria today, hate speech has become a commonplace simply because the Nigerian ruling elite, nay, leadership has remained glued to the inclination of culture, religion and ethnic loyalty. Nigeria is still groping for nationhood. The ruling class has always capitalized on this diverse lines of primordial sentiments and cleavages, in other to seek for political relevance, whenever they felt they are losing their political grip or positions.
THE solution of hate speech cannot be found in enacting legal reforms, rather, the nation’s ruling class must first go beyond tribal, religious and regional interests in governing the country. In other words, Nigerians want to see good governance, justice and patriotism displayed by its leaders and not self-righteous and very dubious enactments of laws, all with the intent of promoting dictatorial tendencies under the camouflage of democracy.
WE do not condone hate speech, but tackling poverty, engendering development to Nigerians, should be the primal concern. Doing otherwise, is tantamount to dealing with the symptoms of an ailment, rather than going for the root cause of the problems.
Again, what has the National Assembly done to deliver Nigerians who cannot go to their farms? What has it done to save Nigerians from kidnappers that are having a field day, as if we have no government?