Despite calls by concerned Civil Society Organizations and religious organizations to step down the debate on the Hate Speech Bill, sponsor of the bill and Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi-Abdullahi, has said the Bill will enthrone one of the primary purposes of democracy.
Sabi-Abdullahi said this in an exclusive interview with The Punch newspaper.
According to him, the Bill, which many people are worried about is to encourage participatory engagement and dialogue.
His words: “There are two divisions here: Some people are worried that their freedom of expression will be taken for granted, and I want to say no, the bill is not intended to take anyone’s freedom of expression for granted. It is to guarantee freedom of expression because the truth of the matter is that when you are discussing or analysing issues, even if they are religious or ethnic, so long you are not doing them with the vile intention of hurting the other person and defaming their person and their known dignity, then you also are granted to make your mind.
“And if you have to dialogue and participate in any discussions, you cannot absolve yourself or remove yourself from who you are, either from the ethnic or religious perspective. It should not be that because you are saying something, somebody else should feel angry enough to say that he is now targeting you and making statements against you so that at the end of the day, some people now feel that yes, you are actually a subject that should be dealt with through mob actions and the like.
“If anything, the bill itself should guarantee freedom of speech in its own right, because if they kill you as a result of the sentiment of your religion or ethnicity for example, would you be involved in any other expression? You won’t. If anything, this is the way I look at it. And that is the argument many experts have put across.”