By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
The Senate Tuesday reintroduced 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”
The upper legislative chamber 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 Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullah (APC, Niger State), was lited 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, racial contempt among others.
The bill among others can, stipulates thus :” Anyrson 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”
The Bill 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.
According to the Bill, “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 Ten million Naira, or to both.” The bill added.
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.
Other situations which the Bill frowned at is when “a person subjects another to harassment on the basis of ethnicity for the purposes of this Section where, on ethnic grounds, he unjustifiably engages in a conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating that other person’s dignity; or creating an intimidating, degrading, hostile, humiliating or offensive environment for the person subjected to the harassment.”
The Commission will be headed by an executive chairperson to be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the National Council of State, subject to the confirmation of at least two-third majority of the National Assembly.
Other functions of the Commission include: discouraging persons, institutions, political parties and associations from advocating or promoting discrimination or discriminatory practices through the use of hate speeches; promoting tolerance, understanding and acceptance of diversity in all aspects of national life and encourage full participation by all ethnic communities in social, economic, cultural and political life of other communities
It is also to plan, supervise, coordinate and promote educational and training programs to create public awareness, support and advancement of peace and harmony among ethnic communities and racial groups;
Also, the commission is expected to promote respect for religions, cultural, linguistic and other forms of diversity in a plural society; promoting equal access and enjoyment by persons of all ethnic communities and racial groups to public or other services and facilities provided by the Government;
Other functions of the commission include promoting arbitration, conciliation, mediation and similar forms of dispute resolution mechanisms in order to secure and enhance ethnic and racial harmony and peace and investigate complaints of ethnic or racial discrimination and make recommendation to the Attomey-General, the Human Rights Commission or any other relevant authority on the remedial measures to be taken where such complaints are valid.