Senators form group to halt Hate Speech, Social Media Bills

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    The stage may have been set to shoot down the controversial Hate Speech and Social Media Bills pending in the Senate.

    This is coming as a group of senators, under the aegis of “Senators Against Hate Speech and Social Media Bills” was formed at the weekend.

    One of the arrowheads of the group revealed the resolve of members to kill what he called the two obnoxious Bills.

    Members of the group are said to be from the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a few others from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

    The sponsors of the Bills are alleged to have assembled demonstrators in preparation for them to go to the National Assembly’s gate to support them before or during the public hearing.

    It was also learnt that “money may exchange hands” to lure senators to back the Bills.

    The arrowhead said members of the group were aware that consideration of the Bills would be accorded top priority at the resumption of the Senate on January 28, 2020.

    “We are resolved to shoot down these Bills because it is obvious that Nigerians are against the proposed legislations.

    “We are already mobilising like-mind senators. We know our membership, which cuts across party lines. From all indications, the number is growing by the day.

    “We also know that the sponsors and other hidden hands behind the Bills are working behind the scene to push through the Bills.

    “We are sensing the hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob in the proposed legislations.

    “It is obvious that the backlash of passing the Bills will be too heavy for the Senate to contend with. Already, the Ninth Senate is battling with an image problem. Nigerians of all walks of life have spoken; we don’t represent ourselves,” he said.

    The controversial Hate Speech Bill, titled: “National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches (Establishment, etc) Bill, 2019”, was sponsored by Deputy Chief Whip Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, representing Niger North.

    The Bill scaled first reading in the Senate on November 12, 2019.

    The Bill proposes 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 behaviour” has committed an offence.

    It adds that the charge would be justified, if such a person intends to stir up “ethnic hatred”.

    “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,” the Bill states.

    The Social Medial Bill, titled: “Protection from internet falsehood and manipulations bill, 2019”, was sponsored by Mohammed Sani Musa, representing Niger East.

    It was passed for second reading on Wednesday, November 20, 2019.

    Senators Abdullahi and Musa are APC members.

    The Bills have since met with opposition from a cross-section of Nigerians.

    But Abdullahi promised that the death penalty clause in the proposed legislation would be amended before the Bill is passed.

    Senate President Ahmad Lawan said Nigerians would finally decide if the Bills should be passed or not.

    Addressing reporters to mark his sixth month in office before the Christmas break, Lawan said: “There is no way we can, for example, pass into law something that will be inimical to the people of Nigeria. No, we can’t.

    “But we will do everything possible to ensure that we legislate on what will make life better for Nigerians, and we have shown the sign so far.

    “If you say the Hate Speech Bill should not pass, when they would conduct the public hearing, get as many people against the Bill as possible to attend the public hearing and make their case.”

    Senate spokesperson Godiya Akwashiki could not be reached for his reaction as his phone was switched off.

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