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What You Need to know About the Bill That Seeks to establish Hate Speech Commission in Nigeria

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A proposed legislation for a bill to set up a commission for the prohibition of hate speeches had passed first reading in the upper legislative chamber after Nelson Ayewoh, clerk of the senate, read the short title of the bill on Tuesday.

The Bill which is sponsored by the former Senate spokesman, Senator Abdullahi Sabi, is listed on the order paper and has passed first reading on Tuesday.

Findings about the bill reveal that;

  1. When a speech attacks a person or a group on the basis of protected attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity, it is deemed to be a hate speech. The primary objective of the hate speech bill is the enactment of a law which in effect, punishes and prevents hate speeches in Nigeria. The Bill is envisaged to give effect to the Nigeria’s obligations in terms of the Constitution and international human rights instruments concerning racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, in accordance with international law obligations.
  2. Notably however, the ascertainment of whether a person’s utterances amount to hate speech will constantly create a legal tussle for the purpose of balancing interests, to wit:  the rights to freedom of expression as enshrined under 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution and Freedom of Thought Conscience and Religion; as well the need to curb hate speeches and their very negative tendencies.
  • There are extant laws in Nigeria which appear to (in some way) address some of the issues the Bill proposes to deal with. For instance, the fact that there is an Act that already criminalizes Sedition, thereby curtailing the extent at which people can condemn the government of the day or promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of the population of Nigeria. Sedition is punishable upon first conviction with imprisonment for two years and on subsequent convictions, with three years.[1]

It however remains to be seen, what meaning the proposed law will ascribe to ‘’hate speech’’ as well as the ingredients that ground liability for the offence. Perhaps this will make the defining line between the Hate Speech Bill and any similar extant laws

Mr Ayokunle Odekunle, a Lagos based legal practitioner tells NewsWireNGR on Tuesday that, “The primary objective of the hate speech bill is the enactment of a law which in effect, punishes and prevents hate speeches in Nigeria”.

He noted that, “The Bill is envisaged to give effect to the Nigeria’s obligations in terms of the Constitution and international human rights legislations concerning racism, xenophobia, racial discrimination and related intolerance, in accordance with international law obligations.”

Last week, the Senate passed through first reading the Protection from internet falsehood and manipulations Bill 2019. The proposed legislation seeks to prevent the spreading and broadcasting of falsehood and manipulations using social media platforms via internet broadcasts and transmissions.

“There is no need for a separate hate speech commission,” Mr Henry Okelue, an Abuja based IT Consultant and a supporter of the President Buhari’s government tells NewsWireNGR.

 He added that, “President Muhammadu Buhari is known to refuse to assent to bills that are duplicitous. If the hate speech bill makes it past 3rd reading, which I don’t expect it to, I expect a presidential veto.”

This Bill is reminiscent of the Social Media Bill which was introduced in the eight assembly but was not passed because of widespread condemnation of the bill which some Nigerians felt was intended to stifle freedom of expression across the country.


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