Deputy Speaker of Cross River House of Assembly, Hon. Joseph Bassey, has warned that the bill seeking to penalise persons found guilty of hate speech was destructive to humanity.
Bassey, who spoke with News Agency of Nigeria on Sunday in Calabar, warned that the proposed ‘death sentence by hanging’ for hate speech was not in the interests of the massive.
The bill seeking to establish the National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech was sponsored by the Deputy Chief Whip in the Senate, Sen. Aliyu Abdullahi.
The Deputy Speaker said that there were more issues of concern that needed the deliberations of the Senate than hate speech.
According to him, burning issues like kidnapping, armed robbery, militancy, banditary, corruption and poor road network needed utmost attention by the government and Senate legislation.
He however, advised for a jail term and an option of fine for those found wanting of hate speech in other to serve as a deterrent to others.
“In Nigeria, we spend more times on things that are not important more than on things that are important. First, we have serious issues of insecurity in this country.
“Even man slaughter is not death by hanging, not to talk of words of mouth to now warrant death by hanging.
“Today, those who are prosecuted for corruption which is more dangerous than hate speech because it has to do with stealing public funds are now entering into plea bargain for their freedom.
“I want to join other Nigerians to condemn the bill. I know that the National Assembly has high level headed individuals who will stand against this bill,” he said.
The lawmaker said that although hate speech can create violence and destruction in some quarters, but it does not warrant a legislation for death by hanging.
He alleged that the bill was designed to victimise the common man, the press, opinion leaders and social media influencers, adding that some highly place individuals in the society will always get away with any charges before them.
He called on the lawmaker representing Cross River South in the National Assembly, Sen. Gersom Bassey, not to vote in support of the bill, praying it doesn’t scale through second reading.
Bassey said that as a lawmaker, he has sampled people’s opinions on the bill and found out that Nigerians were in total support against the bill
The lawmaker said that out of annoyance and failure of government to provide necessary infrastructure for the citizenry, it is possible that some individuals will speak out harshly.
“When a common man is helpless, the only way out is to speak his mind and that might amount into hate speech which is not completely good; but we must at all times try not to make things worst for them,” he said.
He called for a proper re-orientation of values and dedication of service to the masses, adding that the political class should always be accountable to the public through delivery of democracy dividends.