US Envoy Describes Hate Speech Bill as Impressive

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The Political Affairs Officer of the US Embassy in Nigeria, Jerry Howard, has said he is impressed with the level of work done on the bill seeking to curb hate speech in the country.

Howard said this yesterday when he visited Senator Sabi Abdullahi, sponsor of the bill, in Abuja, according to a statement from the senator’s media office.

The statement quoted him as saying the bill is an “impressive piece of legislation needed to address issues of discrimination, hostility and violence in Nigeria.”

He said he visited the senator to engage him on the proposed legislation and understand it better.

“We want Nigeria to succeed and we think a prerequisite for Nigeria’s success is successful democracy,” he was quoted as saying.

“For democracy to succeed, the people must have a house, the people must have a place where their representatives can argue and complain, come up with new ideas and come up with solutions to guide the executive branch and lead the country forward.

“I’m very impressed with the research you’ve done on the bill. The media has had a field day with this, really. You’ve thought it through.

“I was depending on the media for my education, and it was very misleading. You’ve done your research and it is very interesting.”

The envoy enjoined the senator to properly engage other stakeholders, including the civil society, to “sell” the idea of the bill to them.

“You’ll need to talk to civil society organisations, you need to educate them. You’ve educated me,” he added.

Abdullahi said the bill, will among other things, address discriminatory practices which is “part of the reasons why violence takes place” in the country.

“It is discrimination that creates the socio-political imbalance that you see leading to a group feeling shortchanged and marginalised,” he said.

“Discrimination is also another very serious matter why I sponsored the bill. This bill basically is about preventing discrimination, and prohibiting people who incite violence.”

The bill was widely criticised when it was introduced particularly over the provision that recommends death penalty for anyone found guilty of hate speech that caused another’s death.

But the senator later said that provision would be amended.