Former military head of state, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) has said that the Senate cannot use the Hate Speech Bill to muzzle Nigerians and deny them freedom of speech.
Concise News reports that Babangida, who was Nigeria’s leader from August 1985, to August, 1993, made this known while hosting the National President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Chief Christopher Isiguzo, at his Minna residence on Wednesday.
He condemned the bill, saying that there was no basis for the bill because no one can deny Nigerians their fundamental rights.
He said: “I am surprised that this bill has resurfaced. There is no basis for this now. We are developing; we should be allowed to develop. If we make mistakes people can be cautioned. If somebody goes off you have the right to call him to say, ‘no, we don’t want this.’
“Unless people are able to express themselves, those in government or in authority will not know what is happening in the country.”
Describing the bill as an “eye service” by the sponsor, Babangida said the death penalty prescribed in the bill was “crude and wicked.”
He said: “If somebody makes hate speech, put him in the gallows and not shoot him. It is crude and out of tune with the 21st-century reality. It could have happened, maybe some 300 years ago, but not now.”
The former Head of State promised to join the NUJ and other stakeholders in protesting against the passage of the bill.
“I am with you on this. I will also talk to those of us who could be in a position to bring sanity to bear on some of these things,” he said.
“if we had their type of media, I think they should be jailing you all by now.
“But today, the country is better for it.”
The bill, sponsored by former Senate spokesman Senator Abdullahi Sabi, passed first reading on Tuesday, November 12.
According to the lawmaker, the bill seeks to eliminate all forms of hate speeches in Nigeria and to advise the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on all aspects thereof.
The Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill which is also known as the Social Media Bill passed the second reading in the Senate on Wednesday, November 20.