Senate imposes death penalty on hate speech offenders

The Senate Tuesday re-introduced the hate speech bill it abandoned under pressure last year through which it sought to impose outright death penalty on “any person found guilty of any form of hate speech that results in the death of another person.”

It was last year forced to drop its first attempt to enact the law following massive public outcry that ensued after it was widely reported in the media in March, 2018.

In the new attempt, the bill tagged “National Commission For the Prohibition of Hate Speeches” sponsored by the deputy chief whip of the Senate, Aliyu Sabi Abdullah (APC, Niger state), was listed as Item 12 on the Order paper and passed for first reading.

The death penalty, among others, is the most severe punishment provided by the anti-hate speech bill as provided for in the draft copy of the bill.

It defines hate speech as comments that insult people for their religion, ethnic, linguistic affiliation, and racial contempt among others.

 The bill, among others, can stipulate thus: “Any person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable to life imprisonment and where the act causes any loss of life, the person shall be punished with death by hanging. For offences like harassment on the basis of ethnicity, racial contempt, the bill proposes not less than five-year jail term or a fine of not less than N10 million or both.”

It also states that: “A person who uses, publishes, presents, produces, plays, provides, distributes and /or directs the performance of, any material, written and/or visual which is threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior commits an offence if such person intends thereby to stir up ethnic hatred, or having regard to all the circumstances, ethnic hatred is likely to be stirred up against any person or person from such an ethnic group in Nigeria.

“Conduct shall be regarded as having the effect specified in subsection (1)(a) or (b) of this Section if, having regard to all the circumstances, including in particular the perception of that other person, it should reasonably be considered as having that effect.”

“A person who subjects another to harassment on the basis of ethnicity commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to an imprisonment for a term not less than five years, or to a fine of not less than N10 million or to both.

The bill, according to its sponsor, is aimed at ensuring the elimination of all forms of hate speeches; promoting the elimination of all forms of hate speeches against persons or ethnic groups; as well as advising the federal government on the matter.

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