Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on email@example.com
Deputy Chief Whip of the Nigerian Senate, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, falsely claimed on Sunday that Nigerians were now “rallying” behind, not agsinst, the controversial hate speech bill, urging the United States to forget about the sanctions because the country was behind the bill.
Amnesty International has characterized the bill as a dangerous threat to freedom of expression in Africa’s most populous nation.
Human Rights Watch has also condemned a similar bill being considered in Ethiopia and elsewhere as African leaders clampdown on activists, journalists and opposing voices.
[read_more id="2" more="Read full article" less="Read less"]
Senator Abdullahi attempted to spin a positive side of the bill.
He said the passage of the Hate Speech Bill under consideration by the National Assembly will address “all issues” of discrimination associated with religious and ethnic persecution in Nigeria.
Sabi Abdullahi made his remarks in a statement sent to TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C. on Sunday against the backdrop of impending sanctions faced by Nigeria following its inclusion on the ‘special watchlist’ of the United States Government over high cases of religious and ethnic persecution.
The United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, had announced Nigeria’s inclusion into the religion violations list.
Also, the 2018 report of the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), recommended Nigeria’s designation as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) given the high cases of violence and discrimination recorded on the basis of religion and ethnicity.
The report indicted the Federal and State Governments of doing nothing to bring the situation under control.
“The Nigerian Governments, at the national and state levels, continued to tolerate violence and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief, and suppressed the freedom to manifest religion or belief,” the report said.
Reacting on the development, Senator Abdullahi said “the escalating incidence of religious and ethnic violence in Nigeria stems from discrimination on almost all fronts which the Hate Speech Bill specifically seeks to address.
“The threat is real. With the inclusion of Nigeria on the watch list of the United States Government and sanctions to follow, it is only imperative for the legislature to act timely by introducing a law to deal with the menace which is becoming an embarrassment to the reputation of the country internationally.”
On the support of Nigerians for the Hate Speech bill, the lawmaker said, “I can tell you that the bill is receiving strong support from Nigerians across the country.
“Notable personalities across various professions are beginning to speak out in support of the bill in the media. This is not to leave out some members of the Academia that are rallying support for the bill’s passage by the National Assembly.”
He added that recent events have vindicated the introduction of the Hate Speech bill and expressed full confidence that Nigerians would come out massively to support it when the time is right.
He said, “Like I have always state, only those who are against the unity of Nigeria will oppose the bill by hiding under guise of protecting ‘Free Speech’.
“The Hate Speech Bill targets acts of discrimination and absolutely not Freedom of Speech as those with sinister motives who are opposed to the bill are trying to mislead Nigerians into believing.
“Before Nigeria is consumed by religious and ethnic violence, we must all rise to save the country from people using hate speech for personal gains.”