With growing international concern over the proposed hate speech bill, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, the sponsor of the bill has said that it was in the best interest of Nigeria.
Mike Pompeo, the United States secretary of state had announced Nigeria’s inclusion into the religion violations list while the 2018 report of the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), recommended Nigeria’s designation as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) given the high cases of violence and discrimination recorded on the basis of religion and ethnicity.
Both the federal and state governments were indicted in the report which accused them of doing nothing to bring the situation under control.
“The Nigerian Governments, at the national and state levels, continued to tolerate violence and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief, and suppressed the freedom to manifest religion or belief.”
Senator Aliyu who represents Niger North, while defending the bill in a statement at the weekend claimed his National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech Bill would address the growing concern over mutual religious and ethnic distrusts in the country.
He said: “The escalating incidence of religious and ethnic violence in Nigeria stems from discrimination on almost all fronts which the Hate Speech Bill specifically seeks to address.
“The threat is real. With the inclusion of Nigeria on the watch list of the United States Government and sanctions to follow, it is only imperative for the legislature to act timely by introducing a law to deal with the menace which is becoming an embarrassment to the reputation of the country internationally.”
He further claimed that the support for the bill has been high, despite the growing apprehension over stipulated penalties for infractions stipulated in the Bill.
“I can tell you that the bill is receiving strong support from Nigerians across the country.
“Notable personalities across various professions are beginning to speak out in support of the bill in the media. This is not to leave out some members of the academia that are rallying support for the bill’s passage by the National Assembly.”
He added that recent events have vindicated the introduction of the Hate Speech bill and expressed full confidence that Nigerians would come out massively to support it when the time is right.
He said, “As I have always stated, only those who are against the unity of Nigeria will oppose the bill by hiding under the guise of protecting ‘Free Speech’.
“The Hate Speech Bill targets acts of discrimination and absolutely not Freedom of Speech as those with sinister motives who are opposed to the bill are trying to mislead Nigerians into believing.
“Before Nigeria is consumed by religious and ethnic violence, we must all rise to save the country from people using hate speech for personal gains.”