Despite the public outcry against the proposed legislation aimed at addressing social media and addressing Hate Speech in Nigeria, sponsors of the bills, senators Sani Musa and Sabi Abdullahi have insisted on pushing for the bill.
In an interview with Punch, All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers from Niger State says the bills are meant to serve the overall interest of Nigerians.
Abdullahi, the Deputy Chief Whip wonders why Nigerians, who have not seen the content of the bill are condemning it. He argues that Nigeria needs the bills at its current stage of development.
He says, “I will not drop the bill. In the first instance, I sponsored this bill of my own volition. Nobody asked me to do so. I did all the research and I have my strong reasons for coming up with this.
“There is a stage in our development as a country that we have reached where we have to have caution. I’m not doing this out of ignorance. We need this law at this stage of our development.
“The bill on its own did not create any outrage. The bill is suffering from hate speech already because people have misinterpreted it. Simply because you read ‘death by hanging’ without reading the context, you have started making comments. Is it possible to just hang a human being?”
On his part, Musa vows to go ahead with his Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill 2019, despite opposition against the bill.
He says his bill is different from the Hate Speech Bill, saying his proposed legislation is meant to prevent transmission of false statements.
The lawmaker says,“My bill is different from the hate speech bill. As far as I know, we have legislation that can tackle hate speech. My bill can also tackle hate speech because if you know that you are going to say something that is not true, you will think of the consequences.
“There is a difference between my bill and the hate speech bill. I may come out to say something that is against your tradition; it is left for you to prove that the statement has made people look down on you at the court of law.
“The aim and objective of my bill are to prevent the transmission of false statements, or a declaration of facts, knowing full well that those facts are not true in Nigeria.
“It would enable measures to be taken to counter the efforts of such transmissions and also to suppress the financing, promotion and support of online locations that repeatedly transmit false statements.”
He, however added that he is ready to welcome opposition if fellow lawmakers and stakeholders knock the bill on the floor of senate.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in the opposition party , led by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe have vowed and assured the general public that the two bills will not become laws.
Abaribe, the Deputy Minority Leader, Emmanuel Bwacha, and the Deputy Minority Whip, Sahabi Yau were said to have rejected the bills while addressing a coalition of civil society groups on Wednesday, November 13, 2019.
On Thursday, November 14, 2019, Abaribe also emphasized his position on the bills when he featured on Sunrise Daily, a programme aired by Channels Television.
He says, “There will be a public hearing and everybody will be invited. We cannot make any comment about what is still at the stage of the first reading. But what I can assure you is that this Senate cannot be a party to removing the rights of Nigerians from whatever is enshrined in the constitution.
“The constitution says under Section 39 that we have rights, including freedom of speech. Freedom to hold and espouse ideas. I can assure you that the 9th Senate will not breach your rights.
“I do not think that Nigerians who fought to bring us to the point where we are and bring us to democratic government will willingly give it away and make us go back to the dark days of suppression.
“We expect that social media users in Nigeria must be also responsible enough not to propagate information designed to tarnish other peoples image.
The senator says when the bill is gazetted, the lawmakers will see all the aspects of the proposed legislation and discuss its general principles.
“The sponsors of the two bills will explain what they really want to achieve with them when we get to the second reading process. At the moment, what we have is the first reading which is automatic.
“The second process would now be that the bill will have to be gazetted. That is when we can now see every aspect of the bill. It is at that point that it will go for a second reading and we will discuss the general principles.
“At the moment, I do not know what is in those bills, save for the speculations that we are seeing.
Earlier, the People Democratic Party (PDP) condemned the Hate Speech Bill describing it as “unconstitutional, undemocratic and a barbarous.”
The party in a statement on Wednesday, November 13, 2019, says the provisions of the bill are deliberately hazy and nebulous with the malicious intention to victimize innocent Nigerians.