The Nigerian Senate may amend the proposed death penalty clause in the Hate Speech Bill before it.
Sen. Sabi Abdullahi, who is the sponsor of the bill, made this known in a statement on Sunday in Abuja.
Abdullahi, who is the Deputy Chief Whip in the Senate, assured that the death penalty proposed in the bill would be amended by the Senate “when it is subjected to legislative input at the National Assembly.”
Newsmen report that the controversial bill had, on Nov. 12, passed first reading.
Abdullahi, who represents Niger North Senatorial District, said that the bill would undergo some fine-tunings to ensure that the clauses contained in its provisions to be passed into law reflected Nigerians’ views.
He added that the Senate welcomed contributions and inputs by critics and supporters of the bill, as these would go a long way towards giving Nigerians the much awaited law that would address the disturbing trend of hate speech.
According to him, hate speech has led to the death of many and is a major factor behind depression and suicide in Nigeria.
“We have followed closely arguments for and against the hate speech bill, and seen the reason why some kicked against it.
“Given the high respect which we have for Nigerians, we will make amendment to the death penalty aspect that most Nigerians objected to, so that a bill that meets their expectations is passed into law.
“Clearly from the conversations, Nigerians agree that we have a problem in the society today as a result of hate speech, which has fuelled so many killings and violence, and is responsible for cases of depression and suicides,” he said.
Citing a World Health Organisation (WHO)’s report, Abdullahi disclosed that Nigeria, which was the seventh-largest country in the world, “has Africa’s highest rate of depression and ranks fifth in the world’s frequency of suicide rate.”
The lawmaker explained that the Independent National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech to be established would guard against every act of discrimination against Nigerians by way of victimisation.
The commission, according to Abdullahi, will have an executive chairperson, a secretary and twelve commissioners appointed through rigorous process involving the National Council of State, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the National Assembly.