The Senate on Tuesday recommended that culprits of any form of hate speech should be penalised to die by hanging if convicted.
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The Senate also provided that any person found guilty of the criminal act should be accorded life jail sentence and or five years imprisonment, depending on the gravity of the hate speech.
These severe penalties are provided in the proposed bill to establish the National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech which passed first reading in Senate on Tuesday.
The bill which was introduced for the first time in plenary was sponsored by Senator Abdullahi Sabi Aliyu (Niger North).
According to the Bill, “hate speeches are comments that insult people for their religion, ethnic, linguistic affiliation, racial contempt among others.”
By the establishment of the commission, if the bill is enacted, hate speech would become criminalised and the severe penalties shall be applied to offenders.
Also, the Bill, if enacted, would provide the offenders an option of fine to the huge sum of N10 million.
The Bill is expected to eradicate all manner of hate speeches peddled by individuals or organisations.
This would further ensure that hate speeches against ethnic nationalities or persons become a serious unpardonable crime.
The Bill stipulates that: “a person who uses, publishes, presents, produces, plays, provides, distributes and /or directs the performance of, any material, written and/or visual which is threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour commits an offence if such person intends thereby to stir up ethnic hatred, or having regard to all the circumstances, ethnic hatred is likely to be stirred up against any person or person from such an ethnic group in Nigeria.
“Any person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable to life imprisonment and where the act causes any loss of life, the person shall be punished with death by hanging”
“For offences like harassment on the basis of ethnicity, racial contempt, the bill proposes not less than five-year jail term or a fine of not less than N10 million or both,” it read.
Also, it holds that if “a person subjects another to harassment on the basis of ethnicity for the purposes of this Section where, on ethnic grounds, he unjustifiably engages in a conduct which has the purpose or effect of:(a) Violating that other person’s dignity; or (b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person subjected to the harassment.”
“Conduct shall be regarded as having the effect specified in subsection (1)(a) or (b) of this Section if, having regard to all the circumstances, including in particular the perception of that other person, it should reasonably be considered as having that effect.”
“A person who subjects another to harassment on the basis of ethnicity commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not less than five years, or to a fine of not less than Ten million Naira, or to both,” the bill added
Meanwhile, the National Commission for the prohibition of hate speech as proposed by the bill will have “an executive chairperson to be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the National Council of State, subject to the confirmation of at least two-third majority of the National Assembly”.
Other functions of the Commission include: discouraging persons, institutions, political parties and associations from advocating or promoting discrimination or discriminatory practices through the use of hate speeches; promoting tolerance, understanding and acceptance of diversity in all aspects of national life and encourage full participation by all ethnic communities in social, economic, cultural and political life of other communities
Furthermore, the commission will “plan, supervise, coordinate and promote educational and training programs to create public awareness, support and advancement of peace and harmony among ethnic communities and racial groups;
“Also the commission is expected to promote respect for religious, cultural, linguistic and other forms of diversity in a plural society; promoting equal access and enjoyment by persons of all ethnic communities and racial groups to public or other services and facilities provided by the Government;
“Other functions of the commission include promoting arbitration, conciliation, mediation and similar forms of dispute resolution mechanisms in order to secure and enhance ethnic and racial harmony and peace and investigate complaints of ethnic or racial discrimination and make recommendation to the Attorney-General, the Human Rights Commission or any other relevant authority on the remedial measures to be taken where such complaints are valid,” the bill read.