Hate Speech Bill in Nigeria: the necessity or otherwise

The hate speech bill was first introduced in 2015 but it failed to pass third reading and was reintroduced on the 15th of November 2019. The bill was sponsored by Senator Abdullah Aliyu. It aimed at reducing the rate of false news, rumours, insult, and attack on personalities, groups or institutions.

The bill, according to most Nigerians, is a means to limit individual fundamental human rights. Contrary to that, the government claimed it is meant to punish individuals, guilty of any defamatory crime or related offences.

Hence, issues of Libel, Slander and Sedition gave birth to hate speech bill. Several individuals and organization have fallen victim of these crimes. Soft sell magazines are also guilty of this, as some magazines print rumours and unvalidated gossips about celebrities.

 For instance, in October 2014, Pastor Daniel Olukoya filled a 10 million suit against Sahara Reporters, for publishing a false story against his Church.

However, according to article 19, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom of expression is the right of every individual to hold opinions without interference and to seek, recover and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of Frontiers.

Also, article 10 of Equality and Human Rights Act, protect individual rights to hold their opinions and express them freely without government interference.

Moreover, the growth of yellow/citizens journalism calls for restrictions. It also empowers the government to attempt placing restrictions on both individuals and the media, in order for them to respect other people's rights.

The Constitution specifically outlines that individual rights can be withdrawn if it has to do with the national interest, encourage racial or religious hatred, and/or protect the reputation of other people.

However, the reintroduction of the Hate Speech Bill is not advisable at this point when most individuals want to air their position on government policy.

The introduction of the cybercrime Act in 2015 has a good cover for the provisions of Hate Speech bill. As we can recall, the cybercrime act has led to the arrest of several people,  including one Danjuma who was arrested in katsina for a Facebook post about a politician. It also led to the arrest of two Premium Times journalists in Abuja. The measures provided in the act are enough to guide against sedition instead of the introduction of a Hate Speech Bill.

In a final note, Nigeria should be steadfast in restricting laws that deprive them of their fundamental human rights. Nigerians need to be cautious of what they post,  either printed or broadcasted.

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