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Let Senate Introduce Bill Against Corruption & Looting ~ By Abba Dukawa

The Oxfam dictionary defined hate speech as abusive or threatening speech or writing that expresses prejudice against a particular group, especially on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation.

Nigerians may recall that the bill which was hitherto abandoned under pressure last year imposes death penalty on “any person found guilty of any form of hate speech that results in the death of another person.

The upper legislative chambers drop the move last year due to massive outcry from Nigerians. However, on Tuesday came the reintroduction tagged “National Commission For the Prohibition of Hate Speeches”, sponsored by the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Abdullahi Aliyu Sabi (APC, Niger State).

The bill stipulates: “Any person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable to life imprisonment and where the act causes any loss of life, the person shall be punished with death by hanging.

“On offences like harassment on the basis of ethnicity, racial contempt, the bill proposes not less than five-year jail term or a fine of not less than N10 million or both.

“A person who uses, publishes, presents, produces, plays, provides, distributes and /or directs the performance of, any material, written and/or visual which is threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour commits an offence if such a person intends thereby to stir up ethnic hatred, or having regard to all the circumstances, ethnic hatred is likely to be stirred up against any person or person from such an ethnic group in Nigeria.

But one thing Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate forgot in the bill is section 39 of the 1999 Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression.

“Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Nigeria is a signatory to this international instrument.”

Accordingly, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, also domesticated in Nigeria, reinforces this inalienable freedom that the NASS is attempting to disrobe and destroy. The bill is an ill-intentioned, ill-conceived, ill-digested and dictatorial and absolutist piece of nonsensical legislation waiting to consume all of us.

What made me laugh is part of the bill which prescribes death by hanging but forgot that already the nation’s constitution issue law of libel and defamation dealt with this and is enough to handle hate speeches.

Senate introduction of a bill seeking to establish a Federal Government agency to check hate speech in the country shows how they are always prepared to waste public funds at the slightest opportunity; there is enough agencies and laws in Nigeria to take care of hate speech.

Our problem is not the availability of laws or agencies but the implementation and enforcement of the laws by the existing agencies.

For whatever it is worth, the Senate had better know that the Nigerian constitution has a binding force on them and that any law they pass that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Nigerian constitution that guarantees freedom of speech and expression will be null and void to the extent of that inconsistency.

What Nigerians wanted is to see one a bill tagged “National Commission for the Prohibition of Corruption and Looting. The bill should stipulate:

“Any public officials who commit an offence of corruption or looting public funds under this section shall be liable of public execution or death by hanging publicly. In other part of the bill need for special court to be create so that it will handling all corruption cases apart from our conventional courts while Judiciary, police and DSS needs to be strengthened in line with bill.

This is bill Nigerians expects to see we want to see our lawmakers to be tougher on corruption and insecurity, on secretive employments, poor health facilities etc which may require that you isolate this debilitating scourge from politics.

Believe me, what you do from now on as lawmakers will determine whether this nation will be strong enough to deal with challenges of the future, or it will go under because its cumulative problems have been left unattended by our leaders and lawmakers.

Am sure this bill will deal with secretive recruitment: secret after secret in every government employment drive such as NNPC, CBN, NCC, SEC to mention a few, where recruitment was conducted secretly and only the children of well-to-do Nigerians were given offers without due process being followed while sons and daughters of poor ones that spent several hours in the polling stations remain jobless.

Nigerians witnessed many cases of corruption committed by government officials that divert public funds to personal use.

Straight from Nigerians heart, are not induced with the way the past and present administration conducting war on corruption because the brawl is not moving fast enough. Notwithstanding the high-profile corrupt Nigerians pending at various courts there have been no convictions of the alleged looters.

Even the high profile corruption cases like Defence-gate or Dasuki-gate. Another demoralizing scandal that rocked the nation was $43 million NIA safekeeping money.

There was also the Grass cutting scandal where the issue of most expensive grass cutting and diversion of several trucks of food for IDPs in the ravaged North-East and awarded contracts running several hundred million of naira to suspected companies linked to one former government official corruptly benefited from contracts.

If our lawmakers consider the need for upcoming National Commission for the Prohibition of Corruption and Looting Bill we want it to be table before the house as a bill for urgent important matters. Nigerians will be happy with you distinguished senators.

I am sure Nigerians will be delight with senate on this part and bill to be read soon in the shallow chamber and forward it to President Muhammadu Buhari. PMB will gladly assent the bill into law because it will be in line with administration derived war on corruption.

Dukawa can be reach at abbahydukawa@gmail.com.

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