A Nigerian senator, Shehu Sani, has warned that passage of Bill on hate speech currently before the Senate into law will lead to prohibition of free speech in the country because most Nigerian leaders are averse to criticisms.
In the same vein, he also warned that more journalists, bloggers and government critics would be sent to prison if the hate speech bill is passed into law.
The Senator said Nigerian political office holders do not want to be criticized which is why they are in support of ‘big punishment’ for so called ‘hate speech’.
He added that the Hate Speech Bill would be used to fight opposition and whoever is perceived to be working against any government that is in power.
He said, “Most people in power are intolerant of criticisms and allergic to dissent to be trusted with a capital punishment for hate speech. The law against hate speech will be used against free speech.”
The senator representing Kaduna senatorial district in the national assembly added that that law would be a threat to democracy and freedom of speech and Nigerians should fight and reject it.
Sani reiterated that the bill would be used to intimidate and arrest critics of government.
“Many critics and social media enthusiasts will end up in the gallows. Our condemned cells in the prisons will be filled with bloggers, critics and perceived political opponents. We must fight Hate speech, hate speech is a real threat to peace, unity and order of a nation, but we must protect free speech. Free speech is the shield of the oppressed.”
“When you have state police and you have capital punishment for hate speech, you have tyranny and terror as a state policy. People in power should think twice about what they do with power as someday they will be out of power”, Sani said.
He asked public officers who do not want or cannot stand criticism to resign from their offices and go back to their homes where they can rule as ‘imperial emperor’.
The ‘Hate Speech Bill’ was sponsored by Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi of Niger State and has death by hanging inserted as capital punishment for offenders.