A former minister of State for power and steel, Professor (Amb) Iyorwuese Hagher has described the bill on hate speech sponsored by Senator Sabi Abdulahi, representing Niger North Senatorial District at the Senate as wicked and an outrage against the poor Nigerian citizen.
Speaking during the 1st annual Dialogue Conference on Freedom of Expression organised by Global Village Development Initiative, (GLOVID) to mark the World press freedom day in Abuja, Professor Hagher, said that the hate speech bill before the Senate is an attempt to silence ordinary Nigerians and kill dissent in the society.
He said, “The bill is more of an attempt by a few members of the ruling elite to seek extra arbitrary power, to stifle the people further of their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression, speech and right.
“Looking critically at the intent and purpose of this bill, you will realise that it is being targeted at the ordinary people and certain opposition elements in the country.
Also instructive is the fact that there have been several laws in the country that cover offenses, which this new bill seeks purportedly to, address. Therefore, it should be rejected by all Nigerians.
‘’Instead of our legislators working to make Nigeria a great nation where the rights of the citizens are respected this bill seems to take Nigerian citizens for granted.
The Nigerian citizens have taken a lot storically without grumbling. They have silently endured the shameful lack of infrastructure like good roads, steady supply of electricity, food security, qualitative education, potable water, medical care, housing and security of lives.
‘’The attempt to deny them the right to hold an opinion no matter how different it is from others is inhuman. It demonstrates that the ruling elite have taken the citizen’s docility and patience for stupidity.
This is not nice and the freedom to hold an opinion and express it is a fundamental human right. It must be protected at all costs’’.
In his paper presentation titled ‘’Repositioning the media for democratic sustainability in Nigeria’’ the former minister said that charged Nigerians to rise up and resists the law adding that if allowed, it will give rise to the building of the biggest grievance industry at a time when our manufacturing industries are down.
On her part, Stella Jibril a representative of the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Press Council Mr. Nnamdi Njemanze charged journalists to always uphold the ethics of the profession so as to position the media to effectively play its role in promoting peaceful and credible non violence elections.
‘’As the 2019 elections draw near, there is need to take stock and re-strategise on how to build on the gains of our civil democracy by making enduring and concerted efforts for the benefits of Nigerian citizens.
As professionals, we have the responsibility to de-emphasise acrimony and use of hate speech as the work of governance the world over can only take place in a peaceful environment’’, he added.
Also, Dr. Emman Usman Shehu a member bring our girls strategic communication team who lamented the growing scourge of fake news said that the trend is becoming a threat to national development.
Stressing that information is useful only when it is proper, Dr. Shehu added that the media have an important role to play to ensure that the significance of national development is not lost to those involved in processing news as information whether as professionals or hobbyists.
Earlier, GLOVID founder, Ms. Rita Iorbo said that the aim of the dialogue was motivated from views by Nigerians on the consequences of the proposed hate speech bill.
‘’I have listened to many Nigerians debate this and discuss the consequences of this bill; quiet a number of them has expressed disappointment in the government that came to power on the back free expression and liberty.
They have expressed their views and criticise the previous administration for their failure to meet the need of the people democratically and so for this government to turn around and introduced a bill intended to muzzle the voice that brought it into power is something that is debateable.
‘’In a democratic set up like Nigeria, We should be tolerance of views no matter how hurtful they are especially for those who seek public office because you come on the back of freedom of expression, you come on the back of dissatisfaction among the public so if they are not satisfied with what is expected of you and voice out, it should not be classified as hate speech’’.