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No going back on Hate Speech Bill, says sponsor

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–It’s a private member bill, Senate insists

In spite of wide condemnation against the Hate Speech Bill which was passed for first reading in the Senate last week, its sponsor, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC Niger North), on Monday declared that there’s no going back in his determination to pursue it to the end.

This is even as the Senate further distances itself from the bill, which it insisted was a private member bill.

The upper legislative chamber was last year forced to drop its first attempt to pass the bill into law following massive public outcry that ensued after it was widely reported in the media, particularly the aspect of death penalty for the hate speech offenders.

Speaking with journalists on his intentions about the bill in Abuja, Senator Sabi said it’s meant “to provide a platform for dealing with those exploiting the two fault lines in the country, that is, religion and ethnicity to cause crises which often lead to loss of innocent lives.”

“Available records clearly show that largest percentage of ethno-religious crises in the country within the last 15 to 20 years, were caused by hate speech with attendant loss of hundreds of innocent lives

“This to me as a federal lawmaker should not be allowed to continue and the best way of doing this is to come up with appropriate law to arrest the ugly trend which the Anti-Hate Speech Bill is proposed to address,” he said.

He explained further that contrary to insinuations flying around that the bill is sponsored in collaboration with the executive for hidden agenda, that the executive has no input in the bill at all.

“I have read write-ups of those antagonising this bill and listen to those colouring it with hidden agenda from the executive in form of third term. All these to me, are even hate speech or speeches on their own.

“My intention as a patriotic Nigerian is to tackle the spread of hatred in the land along the lines of religion and ethnicity, willfully being promoted by hate speeches.

“The bill is not peculiar to Nigeria as countries like Canada, Kenya, Japan, etc, already have laws against hate speech,” he said.

He added that though there are extant laws in the land against defamation of character, incitement, slander etc, but the proposed Anti- hate speech law will focus strictly on exploiters of religion and ethnicity for avoidable mayhem.

However, the Senate spokesman, Senator Godiya Akwashiki (APC Nasarawa North), in his remarks, said the bill at the stage it is now, solely belongs to Senator Abdullahi.

He said like other bills, the merit or otherwise of its intendment, will be decided by the Senate during the stage of second reading.

He also made clarification that the bill has nothing to do with the executive or any hidden agenda.

“The Hate Speech Bill before the Senate is a private member bill from Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi. It has nothing to do with any hidden agenda from the executive and the Senate will apply all its legislative mechanism on it in deciding its usefulness for Nigerians or not,” he said.

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