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Hate Speech: CITAD Cautions Senate On Proposed Law

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Senate Chamber

As public outrage continue to trail Senate’s proposed bill and penalty for hate speech, The Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has also thrown its weight against the proposed law, saying it will undermine freedom of speech and expression in the country.

The Centre said the Senate should rather focus on serious critical problems affecting the nation that demand immediate attention like kidnapping, armed robbery, youth unemployment, collapse of industries, factories and companies, power outage etc than the issue of hate speech, even though it is not in any way underrating the consequences of hate speech.

A statement issued by Hamza Ibrahim, Coordinator, Countering Hate Speech in Nigeria Project of CITAD said freedom of expression and speech are fundamental deliverables of democracy, but enjoying these rights is being challenged by recent happenings in Nigeria.

“For first instance, a Senator from Kebbi state, Bala Ibn Na’alla brought a motion aiming to regulate social media after an incident involving his constituent expressing himself about the Senator’s representation which eventually exposed Senator to public condemnation in 2016. The Senator’s motion failed following a public outcry.

“It could also be recalled that there was a similar move in 2018 proposing death penalty on hate speech, like the previous attempt, the second also failed. Here we are again, witnessing another move by the upper legislative arm prescribing death penalty for what is yet to be fully, justifiably and sensitively defined. The term hate speech is yet to also have a nationally and unanimously agreed definition taking into cognizance the peculiarities and Nigerian context.

The Centre further said; “As an organization that has been working around hate and dangerous speech for the last five years, the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) is deeply worried that the Senate’s proposed action on hate speech is unbecoming and may undermine freedom of speech and expression since there is no nationally “agreed” and “endorsed” definition of the term “hate speech” in Nigeria.

“We are therefore opposed to it as it may amount to arrest and incarceration of voices deemed to be critics on the basis of uttering hate speech, and this will be dangerous for democracy,” the statement said.

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