Outrage as Senate imposes death penalty on hate speech offenders

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The Senate has reintroduced a bill it abandoned under pressure last year through which it sought to impose the 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 The Guardian, in March 2018, exclusively reported that the lawmakers were desperate to pass the bill.

Tagged “National Commission For the Prohibition of Hate Speeches”, the bill is sponsored by the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Abdullahi Aliu Sabi (APC, Niger State).It was the 12th item on the Order Paper yesterday and was granted automatic first reading on the floor of the Senate.

The death penalty is the most severe punishment provided by the bill which defines hate speech as a comment that insults people for their religion, ethnic and linguistic affiliation, among others.

It stipulates: “Any person 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.”On 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.

“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 behaviour commits an offence if such a 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.

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