Activist implores Nigerians to reject hate speech bill


Warns Against Violation Of Freedom Of Expression

The President, Women Arise for Change Initiative, Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, has said the hate speech bill before the Senate is an attempt to silence ordinary Nigerians and kill dissent in the society.

In a chat with The Guardian, Odumakin said: “The bill is more of an attempt by a few members of the ruling elite to seek extra arbitrary power, to stifle the people further of their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression, speech and right.

“Looking critically at the intent and purpose of this bill, you will realise that it is being targeted at the ordinary people and certain opposition elements in the country. Also instructive is the fact that there have been several laws in the country that cover offenses, which this new bill seeks purportedly to address. Therefore, it should be rejected by all Nigerians.”

She said death penalty for hate speech is not only heavy but also irrational, coming at a time countries of the world are abolishing capital punishment.

I think we need to invest more in educating our public office holders in this country, in order to guide their conducts, in the course of their duties.
On what could be the real intent and purpose of the Bill and if the bill is connected with the 2019 election, she said, “recall that most perpetrators of hate speech itself are politicians, so this is just a scare tactics and attempt to prevent the ordinary people from challenging those in power, so as to ultimately perpetuate themselves in office.

She added “several laws including our penal code have provided for situations that may be related to hate speech, including those that empower a citizen to sue for libel. Hence our worry as a Nigerian that lawmakers will be spending precious time to debate such attempt at duplicating the law and creating another of such many irrelevant agency of government.

On What Nigerians should do before the bill is passed, the 2013 United States Department of Stat International Women of Courage Awardee, said, “Nigerians must continue to publicly speak against this bill constructively and ensure adequate mobilization and sensitization, ahead of the public hearing for the bill, where we hope it will meet its inevitable end.

Advisind the lawmakers, she said “my advice is that the senate should focus on more pressing national issues that requires more commitment from the national Assembly, which are of importance to the security and welfare of the Nigerian people, which is presently facing several obstacles. Matters of the ordinary people should be prioritised, while the bill is thrown into the trash bin.

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Joe Okei-Odumakin
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