By Chidi Aloysius Nwosu (Abia writers)
Edited by Livingrich Ezeikpe
There is no clear definition of hate speech and difference between hate speech and criticism. For some people, hate speech is a speech, which intends to attack or insult a person or group on the basis of attributes such as religion, race, sexual orientation, disability, gender and ethnic origin. In some countries, hate speech is described as speech, gesture or conduct, writing or display which incites violence or prejudicial action against a protected group or individual on the basis of their membership of the group or because it disparages or intimidates a protected group or individual on the basis of their membership of the group.

Senator Aliyu Sabi of Niger state sponsored a bill prescribing the death penalty for hate speech in the Nigerian Senate. Some people opined that if the hate speech bill in Nigeria is passed, it will be abused and used by the government against the opposition or critics of the government and people will be killed wrongly because they criticize the government.

According to one Carol Ajie, a constitutional and human rights lawyer, "hate speech bill is unconstitutional and unlawful and will also impede on citizens right to freedom of speech despite the constitutional guarantees to free speech. A part of chapter IV Bill of rights is being backed off like that, particularly in a midsized democracy, under the cover of legislating on hate speeches, when our statute books are replete with provisions that protect our names from unlawful damage, that is the law of libel. The existing law punishes conduct that tends to result in the death of others- that is unlawful death".

The international press centre has also warned the Senate against going ahead with the passage of the bill now before it, which prescribes death sentence for hate speech, sponsored by Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi of Niger state. The centre in a statement delivered by Lanre Arogundate, its chairman in Lagos, warned that “if passed, the bill would crush the right of Nigerians to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the constitution of the country”. He also asked the National Assembly to convene a meeting with stakeholders to determine what would be regarded as hate speech, as it has no clear definition.

If hate speech would attract a death penalty in Nigeria, it is wondered what would be the punishment for corruption, which is the dwelling place of all the Nigerian senators!

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