Hate speech, root cause of violence in Nigeria — Senator

Senator Aliyu Abdullahi
Senator Aliyu Abdullahi

Hate speech is at the root of violence in Nigeria, Aliyu Abdullahi, sponsor of the widely debated National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech Bill, said on Tuesday.

Mr Abdullahi, who is the deputy chief whip of the Senate, appeared as a guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme.

He said all the violence recorded in the country are preceded by hate speech and his bill when passed into law, will address the dangers hate speech poses for the country.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Senate reintroduced a bill that seeks to penalise persons found guilty of hate speech.

It prescribes death penalty for anyone found guilty of spreading falsehood that leads to the death of another person.

The bill also seeks the establishment of a National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech to help investigate and prosecute offenders.

A similar bill was introduced to the Senate in March 2018 but did not make it through to third reading.

The reintroduction of the bill has generated controversies among Nigerians.

The bill is currently on the floor of the National Assembly and has created lots of reactions across the country, particularly the death penalty clause, which Mr Abdullahi has said will be amended by the Senate.

A former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, had cautioned Nigerian senators against passing the bill.

He said the freedom of speech and other key elements of civil liberties which Nigerians enjoyed between 1999 and 2015 should not be taken away by government.

Mr Abdullahi said he was convinced that the problem of hate speech is one that Nigeria must tackle.

“From what I have studied, both from a lot of scholars that have gone on the subject of violence in the country, there is a conclusion that almost all the violence is preceded by hate speech,he said.

“Yes there may be a crisis between groups, but what will lead to violence is that somebody must have said something that is inciting to violence and that is how people who are innocent will fall victims, losing their lives and livelihood for no just cause because somebody somewhere is irresponsible enough to incite other people to that violence.

“What is the cause of the violence? Hate speech is at the root of it. When we talk about hate speech, the issue of incitement comes in,” Mr Abdullahi said

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But Mr Abdullahi advised Nigerians not to panic and detach emotional sentiments from the issue because the bill will reflect the views of Nigerians when it goes through legislative input by the National Assembly.

“Nigerians have agreed that there is a problem of hate speech, so the issue of agreement will come at the end of the day because the engagement process of the bill is still on,” he said.

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