The legislature all over the world among the tiers of government – Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary has as its primary role of making quality laws that affect the citizens positively, thus helping the Executive to govern well. This it does by its members sponsoring bills that are relevant to the wellbeing of the citizens.
However, our own legislature penultimate Tuesday did the contrary when it turned itself to a theatre of the absurd, a Nollywood play stage of sort. One of its members sponsored a bill on ‘Hate Speech’. Termed Hate Speech Prohibition Bill 2018, the bill, among other provisions, stipulated death by hanging for whoever made a hate speech that resulted in the death of anybody. Among issues that demand urgent legislation, the House could not see any that it could deliberate upon other than this obnoxious and nauseating bill.
It is antithetic to principle of humanity to take a life just for the simple reason of perceived hate speech. There are posers demanding answers; who and what determines a hate speech and what is the definition of hate speech that could incur a death of sentence on the maker. No matter how, this gesture is like turning the country into a Banana Island where brutish law and jungle justice prevail. It is unfortunate that the legislature was quick to scale the bill through to the second reading preparatory to making it a law to be sent to the President for assent and that happened in a matter of days. There are crimes which deserve capital punishment on which the House should make laws such among others a blatant looting of the treasury and embezzlement of higher magnitude of which most members are guilty of rather than this frivolous, perceived hate speech ‘offence’.
We unequivocally assert this bill is against the freedom of speech as enshrined in the Constitution.
By the prospective passage of this bill, the citizens will start to fear to even speak the truth because they don’t know which of their speeches can be termed hateful. A situation where citizens fear for their lives does not augur well for the country generally. Additionally, our security agencies who are to prosecute cases of hate speech overdo things to the detriment of the people thus giving them a leeway for extortion and other corrupt practices.
Given the snail-speed system of our judiciary, a hate speech could drag to even five years due to frivolous adjournments by pecuniary judges and half-baked lawyers handling the cases thus subjecting the accused to harrowing experience s which are uncalled for. It is also against the principle of right to information bill also enshrined in the Constitution.
This bill if finally it becomes law is simply anti-people; sort of gagging the citizens. While calling on civil society groups and all well-meaning people to strive and see to the death of this bill, we also appeal to the Legislature to engage themselves in meaningful productive legislation. It is pertinent to say that for the better part of the year, these legislators are always on long recess. They should not further waste their time on frivolous and trivial rabble-rousing. We are equally asking them to stop their occasional face-off with the Presidency on matters of appointments to offices. They should sit down to productive legislation which is their major assignment.
Enough of what we term their Legislative Extremity which portends them as unserious bunch of lawmakers or is it lawbreakers to say the least.