Hard time awaits purveyors of hate speech in Nigeria as those convicted of the offence in any court of law in the country are to face death by hanging.
This is the recommendation of the Senate which surfaced yesterday.
It is a product of a bill being sponsored by the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Sabi Abdulahi (APC, Niger North).
The proposal, which was introduced and read for the first time in the Upper Chamber, also provides life jail sentence or five years imprisonment, depending on the degree of the hate speech.
The Bill, however, provided an option of a fine of N10 million for those found guilty of the offence of hate speech.
The Bill also seeks the establishment of a commission that will enforce the law on hate speeches in the country.
The proposal, which is entitled: “Independent National Commission for Hate Speeches”, has the objectives of ensuring the elimination of all forms of hate speeches; promoting the elimination of all forms of hate speeches against persons or ethnic groups; as well as advising the Federal Government on the matter.
According to the proposed law, hate speech is defined as comments that insult people for their religion, ethnic, linguistic affiliation, and racial contempt, among others.
The Bill states that: “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 behavior, commits an offence if such 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.”
It further states that: “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.”
And for 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.
The Bill reads further: “A person subjects another to harassment on the basis of ethnicity for the purposes of this Section where, on ethnic grounds, he unjustifiably engages in a conduct which has the purpose or effect of:
(a) Violating that other person’s dignity; or
(b) Creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person subjected to the harassment”, it states.
The bill also says: “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.
“A person who subjects another to harassment on the basis of ethnicity commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to an imprisonment for a term not less than five years, or to a fine of not less than N10 million or to both.”
According to the bill, the commission will be headed by an executive chairperson to be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the National Council of State, subject to the confirmation of at least two-thirds majority of the National Assembly.
Other responsibilities of the commission include: discouraging persons, institutions, political parties and associations from advocating or promoting discrimination or discriminatory practices through the use of hate speeches; promoting tolerance, understanding and acceptance of diversity in all aspects of national life and encourage full participation by all ethnic communities in social, economic, cultural and political life of other communities.
The commission is also to plan, supervise, coordinate and promote educational and training programmes to create public awareness, support and advancement of peace and harmony among ethnic communities and racial groups.
Also, the commission is expected to promote respect for religions, cultural, linguistic and other forms of diversity in a plural society; promoting equal access and enjoyment by persons of all ethnic communities and racial groups to public or other services and facilities provided by the government.
Other functions of the commission include promoting arbitration, conciliation, mediation and similar forms of dispute resolution mechanisms in order to secure and enhance ethnic and racial harmony and peace and investigate complaints of ethnic or racial discrimination and make recommendation to the Attorney-General, the Human Rights Commission or any other relevant authority on the remedial measures to be taken where such complaints are valid.