, 04 December, 2019 / 12:42 AM
A Nigerian Bishop has termed as “an attack on Nigerians” the proposed bill in his country’s National Assembly that seeks to apply capital punishment for those found guilty of hate speech.
“The proposed hate speech bill waiting to be passed at the National House of Assembly, recommending death by hanging for anyone found guilty of hate speech, is an attack on Nigerians,” Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo of Nigeria’s Oyo diocese has said in a statement published by the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria Tuesday, December 2.
“Nigeria should not be proposing capital punishment at this period when other civilized countries are abandoning it because life is inviolable,” Bishop Badejo has noted in his statement and explained, “Capital punishment really just makes society more violent and does not really work as a deterrent.”
The bill proposes that any 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 behavior commits an offence.
It further stipulates that if such 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 persons from such an ethnic group in Nigeria.
In his statement, Bishop Badejo who heads the Pan-African Episcopal Committee for Social Communication (CEPACS) wondered how “Nigerian lawmakers would contemplate the death penalty for hate speech in a country where hate crimes like political assassination, violent political rhetoric, ethnic cleansing, kidnapping for ransom etc. have occurred for years without much response from government and security agencies.”
In his considered view, the Nigerian Prelate has argued, “the lawmakers should be fighting to decrease the harvest of death in parts of Nigeria.”
The Bishop of Oyo also reiterated the Church’s position with regards to this bill saying “human life is sacred and belongs only to the Creator to take.”
“While it seems necessary to exercise some control over the menace of fake news as a few countries have done, I believe that the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution should suffice to protect citizens and prosecute those who fall foul of the law,” Bishop Badejo added.
“A draconian provision like the death penalty for hate speech would be an invitation to anarchy and chaos which will be provoked by an almost certain misapplication of such laws by government and overzealous security agents,” he warned.
“If this bill is passed, Nigeria might as well bid bye to press freedom,” he lamented and explained, “Anyone who has power and has something to hide could invoke the law and conjure such punishment for perceived enemies. Nigeria might as well forget the much-touted fight against corruption for the same reasons.”
“Rather than pursue this obnoxious law let the government seek to redress past injustices, provide basic infrastructure, treat all groups and interest in the country fairly according to the rule of law, provide an enabling environment for jobs and be transparently accountable,” Bishop Badejo stated.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa