NIGERIA’S 36 state governors have rejected the proposed death penalty for hate speech that is being contemplated by the executive after a pro-government senators sponsored the bill suggesting it in the National Assembly.
Last Tuesday, the senate had discussed the hate speech bill, which among others, prescribed death by hanging as the maximum punishment for certain categories of offenders. This bill, which is being sponsored by Senator Sabi Abdullahi, a former senate spokesperson, who is now the deputy chief whip, passed first reading on the floor of the senate on November 13.
Titled National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech Bill, 2019, the proposed legislation not only imposes the death penalty the worst offenders but also proposed a 10-year jail term or a N10m fine for those who stir ethnic hatred by their speeches. Senator Abdullahi had sponsored a similar bill in the last senate but it did not survive the second reading due to overwhelming opposition and criticism from civil society groups and the media.
His latest bill has also attracted widespread criticism from civil rights groups and yesterday, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) rejected it too. At the end of their seventh meeting in Abuja, which was presided over by NGF vice chairman Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, the governors also expressed their readiness to conclude negotiations with labour unions on the implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage before the December 31 deadline.
Governor Tambuwal urged the National Assembly to conduct a public hearing on the hate speech bill to aggregate the views of Nigerians. He said: “I’m not sure I have heard any governor come out to say he is in support of the death penalty for hate speech.
“I believe that the National Assembly should hold a public hearing on that bill, so that due process of lawmaking is followed. This is so that the views of Nigerians, not just the governors, will be well captured on that bill and they should respect the views of Nigerians in whatever may be the direction of debate and the eventual passage or otherwise of that bill.”
On the new N30,000 minimum wage, Governor Tambuwal pledged the commitment of states to the implementation of the package and improved welfare of workers. In addition, the NGF, among other resolutions, also expressed a commitment to the initiative to advance value added activities in agriculture, access to finance and women’s economic development.
On Monday, the senate disowned the bill, saying it was an idea of the sponsor, Senator Abdullahi, who said he had received threat messages over the bill. Critics argue that the bill is part of the plan by the Buhari administration to silence political opponents.