Hate speech bill not to elongate Buhari’s tenure, Senate clarifies
• NUJ opposes piece of legislation, proposed social media regulation
The Senate yesterday clarified that the hate bill sponsored barely a week ago by Aliu Sabi Abdullahi was not to secure an alleged third tenure for President Muhammadu Buhari by way of criminalising opposing views.
This comes as the sponsor of the piece of legislation tagged “National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches” and which last week scaled first reading on the floor of the red chamber alleged threat to his life.
The upper legislative chamber’s spokesman, Godiya Akwashiki, explained: “The bill in question is a private member one. It was not sent here by the executive. It is not an executive bill. So, those claiming that we are initiating moves to give President Buhari a third term are wrong.
“We have no such plans. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) claimed on Sunday that the bill is a plan by the Senate to extend the tenure of President Buhari. Nigerians should disregard that.
“We have said it and we are saying it again. When the bill comes to the floor of the Senate, we will take a decision that will be in the interest of Nigerians and Nigeria.”
He added: “Some changes will be made and areas that are contentious will be removed. And if the lawmakers decide to drop the bill, it will not be passed. But we will protect the interest of Nigerians at the end of the exercise.”
Abdullahi, who also addressed reporters yesterday dismissed insinuations that there were plans to use the bill as a launch pad to offer the president another term in office, vowing to go ahead with its second reading.
The lawmaker insisted that he was not approached by the executive arm to sponsor the piece of legislation but only came up with the idea to tame the growing hate campaigns in the country.
His words: “I have read from some very senior citizens and others who have not even read the bill that I was sponsored by the executive. That is not true. This bill is my idea and I sponsored it to correct this campaign of hate speech.
“I have seen so many interventions and that is the beauty of democracy. Some people have called me. Some have sent personal messages to me and some have threatened me. But I am not bothered. I won’t allow those things to get to me.
“I will bring the bill for a second reading and my colleagues will be convinced on why they should support it. But it is up to the Senate to accept or reject it. I am not bothered at all.”
In a related development, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has opposed the bill and the proposed moves by the Federal Government to regulate social media, describing the development as a means to allegedly silence the media and perceived political opponents.
The association also warned that any attempt by the government to gag the press, stating that such would be tantamount to an invitation to anarchy.
President of the union, Chris Isiguzo, who stated this when the led national executive members on a courtesy call on the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, yesterday in Abuja, noted that events in recent times were giving the association concern about the journalism profession and safety of the practitioners.
He stressed that the union was alarmed that most actions lately from government appeared “deliberately crafted to target and silence journalists.”
Isiguzo, who observed that the safety of media practitioners was dipping, stated: “Safety implies freedom from danger and, in the news gathering context, safety implies protection from a range of threats journalists encounter, including arrest, legal action, imprisonment, kidnapping, intimidation, and murder.”
Responding, the minister regretted that NUJ had “put the cart before the horse by publicly rejecting the planned social media regulation without even trying to understand what it entails.”
He added that when the government announced the move, it made it clear that the regulation was not an attempt to gag the media or muzzle free speech.
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