Laleye Dipo in Minna
Former military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (rtd) wednesday declared that there is no basis for the Hate Speech Bill before the National Assembly, insisting that no one can muzzle the voice of Nigerians.
Babangida made the remark at his Minna Uphill residence when he received the National President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Chief Christopher Isiguzo who paid him a courtesy visit.
Babangida said a similar bill was presented before the Eighth National Assembly and he advised against it saying that “I am surprised that this bill has resurfaced”.
“There is no basis for this now; we are developing and 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,’” Babangida further said
He noted that “unless people are able to express themselves that the government or those in authority will know what is happening in the country”
The former military president who said the only reason for the bill is that the sponsors want to show “eye- service as we call it in the army,” described the death penalty prescribed in the bill as “crude.”
“If somebody makes hate speech, and you put him in the gallows and shoot him, it is crude; it is not in the 21st Century. It could have happened may be some 300 years ago but not now.”
Babangida told his visitor that he will join the NUJ and other stakeholders in protesting against the passage of the bill saying, “I am with you on this. I will also talk to those of us who could be in position to bring sanity to some of these things”.
The former military president said he had been following media publications on the forth coming elections in the United States of America, adding that “if we had their type of media, I think they should be jailing you all by now.”
He credited himself with opening up the media space in the country even when some of his colleagues opposed his policy, “but today the country is better for it.”
Babangida challenged the media in the country to remain “strongly focused on what Nigeria wants, “ adding that we can only succeed if we allow this freedom unfettered without death threat or N10m it sounds silly”
Earlier the NUJ national president had solicited the support of the former military president to bring down the hate speech bill before the National Assembly.