By Musa Adamu and Ikechukwu Okaforadi
The United States has thrown its weight a Bill to check hate speech in the country.
The Bill currently before the Senate has come under serious criticism from various interest groups and individuals who see as an attempt to muzzle free speech.
But coming from an unexpected quarters, the Bill sponsored by the Deputy Senate Chief Whip, Sen Sabi Abdullahi, has gotten its first major backer yet.
On a visit to the Deputy Senate Chief Whip, the Political Officer of the Embassy of the United States of America, Jerry Howard, described proposed piece of legislation as an “impressive” needed to address issues of discrimination, hostility and violence in Nigeria.
According to the United States Embassy official, the visit was intended to engage the sponsor of the Hate Speech bill and to seek an understanding into the proposed legislation under consideration by the Senate.
Following explanations by Senator Sabi Abdullahi on the Bill, Mr. Howard described the response of the media as “misleading” and “hysterical” of the contents of the Bill and what it actually sought to achieve.
He, therefore, advised the sponsor of the Bill to engage and educate Non-Governmental Organizations and Civil Society Organizations in the country on its proposed contents so as to muster support for the Bill.
Speaking on the decision of the US Embassy to engage the National Assembly on the Hate Speech bill, Howard said, “We want Nigeria to succeed and we think a prerequisite for Nigeria’s success is successful democracy.
“For democracy to succeed, the people must have a house, the people must have a place where their representatives can argue and complain, come up with new ideas and come up with solutions to guide the executive branch and lead the country forward.”
He commended the lawmaker for the level of work and research carried out on the Bill.
Abdullahi further stated that the Bill’s introduction by the National Assembly had the backing of Section 45 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
The Section states: “Nothing in Sections 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of this Constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society; in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom or other persons.”
On measures in place to ensure that the Bill is not abused by politicians, Senator Sabi explained that “an Independent Commission shall be constituted and whose membership will be restricted to persons without any history of promoting ethnic or religious causes, or anyone with political affiliations.”
He added that the passage of the Bill by the National Assembly into law would address all forms of discrimination, hostility and violence which are on the rise in the country.