Report has it that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) senators have vowed to continue with the proposed hate speech bill.
The bill which is aimed at regulating social media and hate speech in the country was recently proposed by Sani Musa and Sabi Abdullahi (both APC senators).
The proposed bill has been greeted with strong public outcry and criticism by Nigerians who have vehemently condemned it. Many fear that the ruling party would use it as a legal means to silence opposition voices in the country.
Senator Abdullahi who is the Deputy Chief Whip in an interview with Punch wondered why Nigerians condemns the bill when they are yet to read its content. He further noted that the bill will create a better society which will be beneficial to all Nigerians.
“I will not drop the bill. In the first instance, I sponsored this bill of my own volition. Nobody asked me to do so. I did all the research and I have my strong reasons for coming up with this,” Abdullahi said (as seen on Punch).
“There is a stage in our development as a country that we have reached where we have to have caution. I’m not doing this out of ignorance. We need this law at this stage of our development.
“The bill on its own did not create any outrage. The bill is suffering from hate speech already because people have misinterpreted it. Simply because you read ‘death by hanging’ without reading the context, you have started making comments. Is it possible to just hang a human being?”
Senator Musa in his own statement insisted that Nigerians needed his Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill 2019. The bill is aimed at regulating messages being posted on the internet.
He noted that his bill is not like the hate speech bill, although it can be used to tackle hate speech. He noted that the aim of his bill is to prevent the transmission of false statements.
“My bill is different from the hate speech bill. As far as I know, we have legislation that can tackle hate speech. My bill can also tackle hate speech because if you know that you are going to say something that is not true, you will think of the consequences,” Musa said.
“There is a difference between my bill and the hate speech bill. I may come out to say something that is against your tradition; it is left for you to prove that the statement has made people look down on you at the court of law.
“The aim and objective of my bill are to prevent the transmission of false statements, or a declaration of facts, knowing full well that those facts are not true in Nigeria.
“It would enable measures to be taken to counter the efforts of such transmissions and also to suppress the financing, promotion and support of online locations that repeatedly transmit false statements.”
“If more advanced and complex countries than Nigeria could regulate their social media usage and make their online space more credible, what stops us from doing the same?
“Some people, simply because they want to have many clicks on their sites in order to have some advantage over others, would take the picture of the President and that of a female minister and say they are getting married.
“The implication of all these is that they affect the credibility of the country and that is what we want to safeguard. We are not doing this to gag the press at all.
“We want the press to be our partners. We want the press to see our shortcomings and expose them because they are facts. I don’t want the press to see this bill as if it is being targeted at them.”
The bills have been vehemently condemned and rejected by Nigerians including Prof. Wole Soyinka and Senator Shehu Sani.
Many wondered why the All Progressives Congress (APC) led government of President Muhammadu Buhari who got into power using the social media and the internet would want to silent people on the platforms.
Also, opposition senators particularly the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators have vowed to resist the bill which they alleged is aimed against opposition voices.
Ibrahim Kenneth Suleiman is the Chief Political Editor at Naija Buzz News Network. He is a graduate of political science from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Kaduna State. He specializes in preparing/approving of political news contents before publication. He currently heads Naija Buzz News team of political correspondents. From Nasarawa State, North-Central Nigeria, Ibrahim is a strong supporter of Manchester United Football Club England.