#HATESPEECHBILL: The Law Of Boomerang Respects No One By Adebayo Raphael

Nigeria is speedily sliding into a democratic dictatorship. All indices right now are working against the sustenance of democratic principles in the country. In a democratic dictatorship, public opinion is irrelevant. The democratically elected leader calls the shots at all times, regardless of whether the people are in support or not. Unfortunately, this is the situation in Nigeria, and those who are engineering this barbaric, out-of-fashion style of governance are in control of the aces – they are the anchors of the ship, hence, dictate where the ship goes, albeit in favor of their egoistic individualism.

In any thriving democracy, public opinion is sacrosanct. Even from time immemorial, political leaders, coup-plotters, and anyone who is desirous of power are always on the lookout for when the pendulum of public opinion would swing in their favor, and the smart ones are always quick to seize the opportunity. But, a democratic society where little or no consideration is given to public opinion is unfit for the appellation. For it is often true that any society without a functioning social capital is susceptible to being impugned by a bunch of shallow, confused mortals.

Recently, a legislative bill seeking to hang purveyors of hate speech upon conviction was sponsored on the floor of the Senate. The bill, which was sponsored by Senator Aliyu Sabi (APC, Niger State), says: Any person found guilty of any form of hate speech that results in the death of another person shall die by hanging upon conviction. Surely, this begs some serious questions: (1) What is Hate Speech? (2) Should Purveyors of Hate Speech be put to death? (3) Who decides if a particular expression is Hate Speech? These questions certainly cannot be answered absentmindedly.

Firstly, Hate Speech is any derogatory speech from one person or a group of persons, to another person or group of persons, on the basis of their race, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, disability, or gender. Equally, it is important to understand the meaning of Dangerous Speech, which is often confused with Hate Speech. Dangerous Speech is any speech that incites a person or group of persons to condone or participate in violence against another person or group of persons.

Secondly, we cannot yank off the head merely to cure a headache. Death by hanging is certainly not going to end Hate Speech in Nigeria. If history has taught us anything, it is the fact that this extreme measure will only fuel Hate Speech the more, which could ultimately metamorphose into Dangerous Speech.

Thirdly, I ask, who decides if an expression is hate speech? Nigerians in positions of authority and politicians generally have demonstrated, again and again, that power is nothing to them if they cannot abuse it. We have constantly seen, how people in these positions unfeelingly embark on a mission of vendetta, to settle old grudges with their political rivals, or people who supposedly bruised their ego.

Further, we have seen how continuous disregard for details by Nigerian leaders has repeatedly and increasingly created problems, rather than solutions in the country. Between June and December 2016, Center for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), a research-based institution in Nigeria, captured 6258 items of Hate and Dangerous Speech. CITAD noted, that while over 82% of the hate and dangerous speech items were in response to statements made by others, religious and ethnicity constitute more than 80% of the data captured. Rightly so, the problems of national identity and religion have been perennial in our national history because some viciously egoistic mortals have dedicated their life, resources, and patrimony to polarizing Nigerians with those primitive narratives, simply to perpetuate evil and individually or esoterically aggregate our commonwealth.

In addition to religious-based and ethnic-based hate speech, there are other causes of hate speech like Poverty, lamentable economy, highhandedness and opacity in government, perceived marginalization, Politically Discontent Persons (PDPs), Injustice, Political Vendetta, Wrong approach by government to resolving communal crises such as the Shia conflict, Herdsmen/Farmers crisis, etc. All of these are reasons for the articulation and spread of hate-filled messages. It is, therefore, myopic, lazy, incompetent, insensitive, and grossly offensive for any lawmaker to think that proffering a superficial, extreme, and most likely diversionary ‘solution’ of hanging people for hate speech would solve the deep-rooted crisis of vitriolic and incendiary speeches in the country.

It is unfortunate, that our lawmakers do not even know, or perhaps care less, about drawing the lines between muzzling freedom of speech and curbing hate speech. Even more unfortunate is the fact that leaders in Nigeria are too lazy to do great work. Instead, they think lazily and work shoddily. On this perspective, the masses, the church, and the press stand at a great disadvantage if this lethal piece of legislation become law.

Important to note, however, that this is not the first time the 8th National Assembly, president Buhari’s administration, and members of the APC would come up with something ludicrous. As a matter of fact, there had been many attempts, but let’s look at a few together. In 2015, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah (APC, Kebbi South), sponsored the Frivolous petitions (Prohibition, etc) bill, otherwise known as the anti-social media bill. But for public outcry and denunciation, the bill was thrown into the bin. Similarly, in July 2017, Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed, openly declared his anti-fake news army to counter any perceived fake news on the social media. The ruse behind the move was uncovered and the fake news army literally crashed. Again, in 2017, the Federal Government declared hate speech as terrorism. However, Nigerians did not take it lightly. Even so, towards the end of 2017, the military warned that it would start monitoring the social media – another move allegedly to curb hate speech which did not succeed because the people resisted it. It is therefore unsurprising that this ignominious bill was proposed on the floor of the Red Chamber. As a matter of fact, anyone who has been following the consistent display of dictatorship tendencies in the Buhari-led administration would have predicted this insalubrious bill. What baffles me, however, is how the same people – members of the ruling political party (APC), who campaigned virally using largely hate speeches, are now hell-bent on shushing the people.

You may cast your mind back to seven years ago when someone made a vitriolic comment about the dog and the baboon being soaked in blood. In his words, he said; “They either conduct a free and fair election or they go a very disgraceful way. If what happened in 2011 should happen again in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog, and the baboon would all be soaked in blood.” He was never condemned to death, instead, he got all kinds of ridiculous rationalization from people who share the same IQ with him. The same person is now in the saddle and suddenly, they want to hang people to death. Surely, the law of boomerang respects no one. The consequence of unhealthy politics is lethal to our society and democracy.

While it is true that the Nigerian people must be more cautious with their speeches, it is also expedient for the government to step up to the plate and begin to perform. The nub of hate and dangerous speech in Nigeria is the disgruntlement of the people with leadership across the country. Leaders are to be emulated and followed. Leaders ought to be problem solvers. But the reverse is the case in Nigeria.

According to John Stuart Mill, the right action is always the one that provides the greatest good for the greatest number of people. We must ask ourselves; does this proposed bill provide the greatest good for the greatest number of people? Because, quite frankly, to solve any problem, one must be ready to interrogate the origin of the problem, the triggers or activators of such problem, its impact on the society, the principal characters in the problem and their way of life, the different approach employed by convergent thinkers in the past to solve such problem, and finally, the strategies we can employ to solve such problem with a perspicacious understanding of our society.

At this point in our national history, our leaders need not be concerned with cosmetic remedies but long-lasting ones. For the nation to overcome hate speech, we must first attack the source of hate speech – the ever-growing disenchantment of the people towards government. For instance, the flagrant abuse of human rights in different quarters of the country has escalated hate speech across the nation. One graphic way to typify this would be the conflict between the Nigerian state and the Shi’ite Movement. It has been more than two years since the Leader of the Shi’ite Muslims in Nigeria, Sheikh El Zakzaky has been unlawfully detained incommunicado. His followers who have chosen to exercise their fundamental human right to protest have been attacked by the state’s instruments of repression on several occasions. What’s worse, the government has constantly flouted court rulings ordering the release of Sheikh El Zakzaky. It is almost impossible to be moderate with your expressions whilst expressing your grief in this kind of situation. Similarly, the present administration has failed to exhibit the required sympathy and will in fighting the scourges of terrorism and kidnapping in different parts of the country, and the northern regions in particular. Certainly, the victims of these dreadful acts would not sing the praise of government either. In summary, the government cannot expect a people who are disenchanted with its cluelessness to be modest in their expressions. For injustice, hardship, and insecurity always breed aggression.

In conclusion, therefore, the national assembly must understand that punishing people by death for the articulation and spread of hate speech is like using pain-killers to kill cancer. It is merely superficial. The lawmakers must isolate their selfish interest from their national duty of making laws that will solve problems in the country. They must desist from trying to solve problems superficially and begin to look deeper for sustainable and lasting outlooks. It is important, for Senator Sabi and other lawmakers, to understand that insofar as they continue to come up with palliative measures instead of lasting ones, our problems will never go away. And like the previous ones, this dangerous bill will be thrown into the trash can because the Nigerian people will certainly resist it.


Hate Speech Bill Not Against Freedom Of Speech – Senate Spokesperson

By Ismail Kolapo

The spokesperson of the Upper Chamber of Nigeria’s National Assembly, Sen Sabi Abdullah has disclosed that the Hate Speech Bill that spelled death penalty for those convicted after thorough investigation on malicious statements on religion, ethnicity and nepotism in the country is not to withdraw Nigerians freedom of speech.

Senator  Abdullahi disclosed this while featuring on a radio programme in Osogbo on Monday.

Senator Abdullahi said that, the Hate Speech Bill was not against the freedom of speech in the country but to curb the situation where many many lives were lost daily through hate speech that infuriates ethnic and religious crisis.

The Senate’s spokesperson who is the sponsor of the bill stated that the bill is just at the first reading level in the Upper Chamber and that its second reading will pave way for the bill which will drive out the nepotism in religion and ethnicity in Nigeria.

According him, “This hate speech bill is my personal contribution to national development and I see it as a responsibility for the constitution. Eleven people have since died of ethnicity and religious group violence and I sat down and looked at what has happened and I came up with the idea”.

“A lot of lives is lost, I thought we should look at it and this was what brought about this section, we have passed it for first reading because of the procedure.”

He stressed that the bill is also paramount to protect the citizenery and not that government is finding a means to cage them or trample upon their freedom of speech.

“Every citizen have right to life and right to have properties but people have lost their lives through the hate speech, ethnicity and religious crisis.”

“The people are criticizing the bill because of headline without going into the content of the bill. The bill is about malicious statement that can cause chaos through ethnicity and religious bigotry.”

Bayo Onanuga: The Roots Of Hate Speech, The Remedies

Hate speech is a phenomenon we should be worried about as we move nearer another general election.

The Nigerian constitution guarantees the right of every Nigerian to freedom of speech and expression. Section 39(1) of the 1999 Constitution states it so clearly: “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information without interference.”

Similarly all the human rights charters to which our country is a signatory made similar provisions for freedom of expression.

Article XIX of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Article IX of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights provides that “Every individual shall have the right to receive information and the right to express and disseminate his opinions within the law.”

‘Within the law’ proviso in the African charter underscores the fact that our freedom of expression is not absolute. It is moderated by other rules for the good and orderliness of our society.

Section 45 of the constitution expressly states that all the freedoms we enjoy from sections 38 to 44 are not absolute. 
It is in this lacuna of the law, of our freedom not being absolute, that resides hate speech, slander, libel and other excesses of freedom.

Today, our concern is hate speech and I must quickly add, fake news, both of which I must say have reached epidemic proportions in the past two years. Some of us are worried that at the rate purveyors and merchants of hate, fake and distorted news are going, there may not be a nation called Nigeria, very soon.

strong>The Meaning of Hate Speech

I will assume we all know what “Hate” means. It is the opposite of “Love”.

Hate speech “is a communication that expresses hatred for some group, in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, religious, sexual orientation and others defining attributes of mankind.”

Hate speech and actions motivated by “hate” are crimes in Nigeria as defined by a plethora of laws.

According to Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria, the penal laws in the country have taken care of the mischief which may be caused by reckless publications, such as hate speech.

In particular, offences which include criminal defamation, inciting statements, breach of the peace, criminal intimidation, publication of statement, rumour or report which may disturb public peace, false publication etc attract penalties by imprisonment or payment of fines. See sections 59-60, 373-381 of the Criminal Code (applicable in the southern states) and sections 391-40, 417-418 of the Penal Code (applicable in the northern states),”he wrote.

Section 417 of that penal code applicable in Northern Nigeria states “Whoever seeks to excite hatred or contempt against any class of persons in such away as to endanger the public peace shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine or with both.”

Section 418 also states, “Whoever circulates, publishes or reproduces any statement, rumour or report which he knows or has reason to believe to be false with intent to cause or which is likely to cause fear or alarm to the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the public peace, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years or with fine or with both.”

Section 419 states that “Whoever has in his possession without lawful excuse, the proof of which shall lie on him, any book, pamphlet or paper, gramophone record, tape recording, drawing, printing, photography, cinema film or other visible or audible representation or reproduction, the publication or exhibition of which would constitute an offence under sections 416, 417 or 418, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both.”

There is also the Cyber Crime Prevention and Prohibition Act enacted in 2015, which deals with hate crimes, xenophobia, among others. Sections 24 and 26 are noteworthy.

Section 24 says (1) Any person who knowingly or intentionally sends a message or other matter by means of computer systems or network that-

(a) is grossly offensive, pornographic or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character or causes any such message or matter to be so sent; or

(b) he knows to be false, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another or causes such a message to be sent: commits an offence under this Act and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not more than N7,000,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of not more than 3 years or to both such fine and imprisonment.

(2) Any person who knowingly or intentionally transmits or causes the transmission of any communication through a computer system or network .

(a) to bully, threaten or harass another person, where such communication places another person in fear of death, violence or bodily harm or to another person;

(b) containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to harm the person of another, any demand or request for a ransom for the release of any kidnapped person, to extort from any person, firm, association or corporation, any money or other thing of value; or
(c) containing any threat to harm the property or reputation of the addressee or of another or the reputation of a deceased person or any threat to accuse the addressee or any other person of a crime, to extort from any person, firm, association, or corporation, any money or other thing of value: commits an offence under this Act and shall be liable on conviction.

Under the Criminal Code Act( Laws of Nigeria, it is also provided in Section 88 that:

88A. (1) Any person who

(a) in any manner or form publishes or displays or offers to the public the pictorial representation of any person living or dead in a manner likely to provoke any section of the community; or

(b) publishes or circulates publications either in the form of newspapers, or leaflets, periodicals, pamphlets or posters, if such publications are likely to provoke or bring into disaffection any section of the community; or

(c) sings songs, plays any instrument or recording of sounds, or sells, lends, or lets on hire any record of sounds, the words of which are likely to provoke any section of the Community,

Shall be guilty of an offence for which he may he arrested without warrant by any police officer or member of the armed forces in uniform, and upon conviction shall be liable to a fine of one hundred naira or to imprisonment for a term of three months, or to both; and the court convicting may order confiscation of any material (including records) used for purposes contemplated by this section, and of any instrument used in connection therewith.

So the laws are available. Let the enforcers do their work.

In ‘Long Walk to Freedom’, Papa Nelson Mandela, the most inspiring African of the last century said: “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite”.


In ‘Long Walk to Freedom’, Papa Nelson Mandela, the most inspiring African of the last century said: “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite”.

I agree totally with Mandela. Hate is taught, it is learnt, it is passed down from generation to generation. It is taught by our parents, peer groups, ethnic associations and so on. Hate is passed on to us during our socialisation process, from infancy to adulthood.

Hate is most often embodied in stereotypes, which as defined by the dictionary is “a widely held but fixed and over simplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing”. Oversimplified it says. It follows that stereotypes are not empirical. They are not facts. They are based on jaundiced views, incomplete experiences, generalisations.

And we are all forced to learn them growing up. Unfortunately, some people refused to shake them off, even after going to school and acquiring all the degrees.

How many of us remember the blockbuster novel entitled The Man, written by American writer, Irving Wallace? The book which was published in 1964, explored the socio-political consequences in then largely racist America when a Blackman, an African-American, in later political lexicon, became president by accident. I remember the debate in the book about whether a Blackman really measured up to a man.

Wallace, a great story teller, brought out most profoundly the parochialism of those who considered a Blackman, subhuman in this quote, which I believe also sums up, the way we form impressions and perceptions about the other people in our country, how we nurture the feelings of hate.

“For the middle majority of us all, knowledge of Negroes(I will use Blackman) firsthand is probably limited —-limited to the coloured cleaning woman, who comes twice a week; limited to the coloured baseball player who saves or loses a home game, limited to the garage mechanic or dime-store clerk or blues singer seen or heard on a Saturday night. To this white majority, the Blackman is as unknown as once was the heart of the Dark Continent of Africa.”

Similarly in Nigeria, we form impressions about an ethnic group, by the few members we interact with, a mere subset of a larger population. Often we are wrong. Unfortunately, we carry these perceptions into our graves.

As a child, growing up in a polygamous setting, I was told to be wary of the other ‘mothers’ in the family. Later, I was told to avoid the company of some peers because their parents are ‘bad or fetish’. At adulthood, I was set some redlines beyond which I could not cross to marry as an Ijebu man.

“Don’t marry an Egba woman. Egba women are bad”. As a man raised as a muslim, I also heard the warning: “Don’t marry a Christian, Christians are Kaffirs’.

I am sure all of us have been confronted with similar taboos. If one is Ibo, I’m sure you must have been told not to marry an Osu, even if the lady is the most beautiful woman in the world.

At election time, we are told: “Don’t vote for candidate X, because he is not from our tribe or a believer in our faith”. The purveyors of hate do not care if the candidate is the best in the pack. To them, he must be rejected on account of his tribe or religion or gender.

It was this kind of mindset that made Nigerians to reject Obafemi Awolowo several times at the polls, only for Odumegwu Ojukwu to describe Awolowo after Awolowo’s demise as “the best President Nigeria never had.”

n Nigeria stereotypes are also fanned and mined by politicians who want to grab power. To do so, they must exploit our suspicions, based on stereotypes; they must harvest our differences along religious, regional, ethnic and political divide.

We heard recently a politician who is in the running for Nigeria’s presidency, gleefully announcing his greatest credential: he is a pure Fulani, who speaks Fulfulde. He did not anchor his qualification on a manifesto that will solve Nigeria’s problems. He wants to win office by claiming racial supremacy.


As stated earlier, the Nigerian laws clearly provide sanctions for hate speech or actions motivated by hate. All we need to do is to enforce the laws.

Enforcement, I must confess, may be an enormous task in the age of internet, digital communications and social networks such as Facebook or Twitter, WhatsApp.

But we must begin to control the epidemic of hate before it destroys our society. I will cite some examples of hate speeches tweeted by a former minister of Nigeria, that underscore the need for action.

Feb. 15, 2017:

`The Army shot a member of a vigilante group in Edo yesterday that had disarmed and apprehended a Fulani terrorist.They freed the terrorist and let him go home and when asked why they killed the vigilante they said it was a mistake. The soldier that shot the vigilante was Fulani’’.

*This story was debunked by the military. It didn’t happen the way it was presented.

Feb 16, 2018: This was directed to President Muhammad Buhari:

“After your Fulani terrorist herdsmen and brothers do this to our people on a daily basis all over the country you now have the nerve to talk about taking us to the “next level?” 

A vote for Buhari means a vote for genocide, mass murder and ethnic cleansing.’’

Feb. 12, 2018: Another Tweet

 “Fulani terrorists in Benue state removed the eyes, ears and nose of a police officer before slaughtering him. The cruelty and barbarity of these beasts is beyond what words can describe. This is the legacy of Buhari and all those that supported and assisted him to come to power’’.

A few days after these, seven men, said to belong to the Fulani ethnic stock were seized in Gboko and burnt alive.

These are just some examples of what this ex-minister has been circulating.

I am sure we all remember IPOB dishing out hate words, at its zenith, about other Nigerian groups, about the rest of us living in a Zoo, and so on.

We need to act to check unguarded writers such as that minister, when they cross the red line, because unchecked hate speeches or acts are capable of causing war, genocide or ethnic cleansing as we witnessed in Rwanda in 1994. Anti-Tutsi rhetorics by a Hutu President from early 1990s led to the genocide against Tutsi majority in 1994, during which between 500,000 to one million people died within four months.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed once declared hate speech as terrorism, concerned that Rwanda’s bad example could be replicated here, with the way hate warriors are executing their hate agenda.

The main platforms are the social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and some websites where disparaging posts, fake news, distorted news about other people are shared and published.

These social media platforms, being known for their relative anonymity, are used by hate groups to spread misinformation easily and disguising such as if they were generated from legitimate sources.

In fact, some unscrupulous users of such social media platforms manipulate known search engines to make their hate propaganda more accessible to a variety of audiences or receivers. Some have cloned websites such as the Vanguard newspapers, Punch, Huffington Post and others to spread hate.

As recently as May 31, 2016, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter, jointly agreed to a European Union code of conduct obligating them to review “[the] majority of valid notifications for removal of illegal hate speech” posted on their services within 24 hours, to show the concern the world has for hate communication.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law”.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) also prohibits all incitement of racism.

The obvious remedy to this menace is to ensure a proper monitoring of the platforms and also ensuring that hate merchants are arrested and tried under the law.

Media owners and professionals should also join hands with the authorities to develop a classification of hate communication.

Community and religious leaders as well as civil society groups should work within their ranks to encourage love among various segments of the population.

On the government’s side, its organs such as the Press Council and National Broadcasting Commission should undertake massive campaigns against hate communication and blow the whistle when egregious wrongs are being committed.

Since the internet is a veritable source of the propagation of hate communication, the Nigerian Communications Commission has a role to perform to curtail infringements in cyberspace.

Internet service providers must as a rule block erring blogs and websites culpable in helping to spread hate communication.


If we act quickly, we shall be following in the footsteps of Germany.

From January 1 this year, a new German law named NetzDG that forces social media sites to delete offensive content came into effect.

The law requires platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to remove potentially illegal material within 24 hours of being notified or face fines of up to €50m.

The law is seen as the toughest clampdown on hate speech by a western government.

The regulatory agencies in Nigeria must act quickly and decisively before our country is torn apart by purveyors of hate.

I thank you all for listening and I wish you a very fruitful workshop.

*Excerpted from from a paper delivered at the THE WORKSHOP ON HATE COMMUNICATION IN NIGERIA: Identifying Its Roots and Remedies. The workshop was organised by Nigerian Press Council on 22 February 2018 in Abuja.

Offenders Of Hate Speech To Die By Hanging- Senate

The Senate has passed a new bill that is to ensure that any person found guilty of any form of hate speech that results in the death of another person shall die by hanging upon conviction.

The bill was sponsored by the spokesman of the upper chamber, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger) as a reaction to the growing concerns of the rise in violence in the country.

According to the Guardian, the bill also seeks the establishment of an ‘Independent National Commission for Hate Speeches’, which shall enforce hate speech laws across the country, ensure the elimination of the menace and advise the Federal Government. For offences such as harassment on the grounds of ethnicity or racial contempt, a culprit shall be sentenced to “not less than a five-year jail term or a fine of not less than N10 million or both.”

The bill notes: “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 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.”

t notes that “a person subjects another to harassment on the basis of ethnicity for the purposes of this section where, on ethnic grounds, he unjustifiably engages in a conduct which has the purpose or effect of (a) violating that other person’s dignity or (b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person subjected to the harassment.

“Conduct shall be regarded as having the effect specified in subsection (1) (a) or (b) of this section if, having regard to all the circumstances, including in particular the perception of that other person, it should reasonably be considered as having that effect.”The National Commission for Hate Speeches shall be headed by an executive chairperson who would be appointed by the president on recommendation of the National Council of State, subject to the confirmation of at least two-third majority of the National Assembly.

The commission shall discourage persons, institutions, political parties and associations from advocating or promoting discrimination or discriminatory practices through the use of hate speeches; promote tolerance, understanding and acceptance of diversity in all aspects of national life and encourage full participation by all ethnic communities in the social, economic, cultural and political life of other communities.It shall also plan, supervise, coordinate and promote educational and training programmes to create public awareness, support and advancement of peace and harmony among ethnic communities and racial groups.

It shall furthermore promote respect for religiouss, cultural, linguistic and other forms of diversity in a plural society; promote equal access by persons of all ethnic communities and racial groups to public or other services and facilities provided by the government.

The Senate also disclosed that its bid to pass the 2018 budget was being frustrated by ministers and heads of parastatals who have refused to provide details on allocations to their ministries.Without mentioning names, the upper chamber issued a fresh seven working-day ultimatum to the affected ministries.

Similar ultimatums in the past had done little to facilitate the budget preparation.The Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Sunny Ogbuoji, said: ” The majority of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies are not coming forward to interface with the standing committees. Some of the ministers will tell you they are going outside the country, and because of that, the MDAs are not fully ready.”

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, stressed that the upper chamber wants the process concluded as early as possible, regretting: “The perception is that it is the parliament that delays these things.”He said: “The Senate Majority Leader will communicate and get in touch with the executive arm of government, so that these MDAs can be told to play their part to ensure that this exercise can be completed.

“I appeal to all these ministers and managing directors that keep on travelling that this is a time for them to be on ground and ensure that they finish this report.”The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said it was unfair for the heads of parastatals to “hold the country down.” He noted: “It has come to a stage where we have to consider taking what has already been presented by the president from those MDAs as the position of the MDAs, instead of waiting for them for ever.

“We gave them an opportunity about three weeks ago to make this a priority but it seems that has not happened. So, instead of the country suffering, it is better to give them just few more days. And after that, the relevant committees will adopt what was sent to us by the president as the positions of the MDAs. We cannot continue to be running the country like this.”

The Senate furthermore faulted the assumption of office by the newly nominated acting Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Anthony Okechukwu Ojukwu, ahead of a confirmation.It also mandated its committee on judiciary to investigate the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, for directing Ojukwu to do so.

The upper chamber reached the resolutions following a motion by Senator Dino Melaye who noted: “If the attorney general, who is supposed to be the custodian of our laws, will flagrantly ask an individual who has been nominated by Mr. President but has not been confirmed by the Senate to go and assume duty, and the person has since resumed, then we are not practising democracy. We have no regard for the rule of law.”


Hate Speech: Learn From Lagos- Tinubu

Senator Oluremi Tinubu of the Lagos Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly, at a town hall meeting with her constituents on Friday said that hate speech and quit notices will only hurt the nation. She then called on other parts of the country to learn from Lagos State, where millions of people from diverse ethnic and religious background co-exist peacefully.

Describing Nigeria as a complex country, Tinubu noted that Nigeria’s greatness lies in the diversity of the different groups that make up the country.

The town hall meeting, the 23rd in the series was tagged “Embracing our Complexity and Diversity”.

She called on Nigerians to re-evaluate themselves and those around them to adequately benefit from the diversity of ideas and experiences.

According to her, other states have a lot to learn from Lagos State.

She said that Lagos “with all the different ethnicities that make up Nigeria residing within her boundaries, has proven that it is possible to coexist peacefully.”

Wanted: A Restructuring of Nigerian Minds by Femi Adesina

Hearing some Nigerians speak (whether based at home or in the Diaspora) you discern that they are “in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.” They spew out things that give them away as “whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones.”

What happened to grace? Where did decency disappear to? Are words not to be seasoned with salt again? What has happened to us as a people? The more rotten, the better, it seems. The fouler and odoriferous the cesspit, the more attractive, followed by applause. That seems to be the philosophy of some people today, and it doesn’t matter who they are. High or low. But we cannot continue that way, if we want to be acceptable to God, and to our fellow human beings. National development does not come by a sudden flight. You work at it.

The sing-song in the country today is restructuring of the polity. We want more states. We want a return to regional structure. We want a revision of the revenue allocation formula. We want six vice presidents, one from each geo-political zone. We want those zones to be the federating units, rather than the states. And so on, and so forth.

In fact, so loud is the cacophony of voices over restructuring that if you ask 100 people what they mean, they give you 100 different explanations. But as a country, I believe we will get there someday. And soon.

However, is political restructuring the most urgent thing Nigeria needs now? I don’t think so. For me, what is more urgent is the restructuring of the Nigerian mind. A mind that sees the country as one, that believes that we have a future and a hope, that believes that we are one people under God. But what we see now is ruinous for any country. It is hemlock, bound to poison the entire polity, and send it to a premature perdition.

The National Bureau of Statistics announced our descent into recession. They embraced the news, almost with sickening glee. Now, the same agency has announced exit, and they begin to question its impartiality. What kind of people are they? They want to hear only bad news? May their minds be restructured, lest bad news dog their footsteps

On Tuesday, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced that we had exited from economic recession. It was cheery news for majority of Nigerians, save for those in the gall of bitterness. They spat in the sky, and collected the spittle with their faces. Who gave Nigeria the permission to exit recession? Who gave her the audacity of hope? How can the economy attempt to rebound, when it should sink deeper and deeper into the miry clay? They were in the doldrums, unhappy because good news came for the country. In their befuddled minds, Nigeria must never see a silver lining in the sky.

The ravening clouds must ever remain victorious, must forever possess the sky, simply because of primordial reasons. The party in power is not my own, so why should Nigeria make progress under it? The President in office was not the one I voted for, so why should he succeed? He does not speak my language, he is not of my religion or ethnic stock, so why must Nigeria prosper under him? They, therefore, throw all sorts of tantrums, like a child whose lollipop is taken away, and attempt to rubbish the news on exit from recession. And those same people would canvass for a restructuring of the polity.

Big mistake. Wrong priority. They need to have their minds restructured first, so that they have goodwill towards their own country, and towards all men. Left to them, they wish that when NBS releases results for the next quarter, Nigeria should have gone back into recession. Filthy dreamers! Awful imaginations! They need a restructuring of their minds, and quickly, too.

Some people spend their lifetime expecting thunderstorms and hurricanes, so they never enjoy showers of blessing. Their addled minds expect negative news, so they never enjoy good tidings. They are the type that swallow poison, and then begin to hope that it will kill the person next door. Restructuring, restructuring, that is what such minds need.

Chase after him. If you catch up with him, kill him. If he outruns you, poison his footsteps. That is the chant in most parts of the country today. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Hate has become their natural language. When they speak hateful words, they speak their native language, their mother tongue. Don’t mid the elevated offices they occupy now, or which they have occupied in the past.

They are in the throes, in the paroxysms of bitterness. Only a restructuring of the mind can save them. My dear senior friend, Ikemba Obosima, from Imo State, has good counsel for them, in a text message he sent to one of them recently, which he copied me:”Pain will follow him who speaks or acts with evil thoughts, as does the wheel of the foot of him who draws the cart. He is greater man who conquers self than he who kills a thousand men in war…Love will purify the heart of him who is beloved as truly as it purifies the heart of he who loves.” But will they listen? If they have not danced too far, and have not become like the dog fated to get lost, which refuses to hear the whistle of the hunter. Let them return home, to sanity.

The National Bureau of Statistics announced our descent into recession. They embraced the news, almost with sickening glee. Now, the same agency has announced exit, and they begin to question its impartiality. What kind of people are they? They want to hear only bad news? May their minds be restructured, lest bad news dog their footsteps. Malediction? Am I cursing anybody? Not at all. Just a warning, and a call to new attitude, new thoughts, new conduct. The things we expect have a way of coming upon us. Ask the biblical Job. “What I feared has come upon me. What I dreaded has happened to me.”(Job 3:25).

One of the characteristics of a hateful mind is that it conjures a lot of mischief, and purveys same as truth. And the gullible laps it up. During the health challenge of our dear President, a thing common to any mortal, big or small, of high or low estate, they filled the land with evil tidings. Oh, he is on life support machine. No, he is dead and long buried. He will never return to that office, I swear. And then, God did what He knows how to do best. He showed the Deus ex machina, His Invisible Hands. Now, the reputation of those people is hanging on life support. If only men would restructure their minds!

President Buhari says exit from recession is cheery news, but until the life of the average Nigerian is positively touched by the economy, he doesn’t consider the job done. Very good. Even the NBS, which brought the good news, says the economy is still fragile, and the good work must continue, so that we don’t slide back. That is exactly what this government would do. That is the motive behind the ERGP (Economic Reconstruction and Growth Plan). So, let nobody be filled with diabolic thoughts. Government does not feel it is there yet. Action stations! All hands on deck.

A final word for haters, wailers, purveyors of fake news, or whatever you choose to call them. Evil minds wax worse and worse. A hater would envy others unnecessarily. He would conjure evil thoughts that would poison his system. He would manifest all sorts of negative tendencies that turn him into a proper child of the Devil. And at the end of it all, his master welcomes him home with open arms. “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” (Dante’s Inferno). And there will be plenty weeping, and gnashing of teeth.

*Adesina is Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari

EDITORIAL: Democracy, Licentiousness And Free Speech

The legal luminary and activist Femi Falana (SAN), has correctly pointed out that there are enough laws in the statute books to confront hate speeches and utterances which are clearly constructed to promote discord amongst ethnic and religious groups as well as cause disaffection within the Republic. It is therefore superfluous in the views of many people that the federal government now sees a need to, tighten the screws by putting more laws on the statute books to curtail the promoters of hate speeches.

From our perspective, it might be superfluous, nevertheless, in view of what is in reality a very calculated promotion of hate speeches often to achieve a political advantage which the government must respond.

A key problem here is the very interpretation of the concept of free speech for mostly self-serving reasons by members of the contending political factions. Free speech is a clearly guaranteed component of a democracy. We, however, make bold to point out, that this does not equate with licentiousness. For a democracy to survive there must be clearly enforceable laws against sedition, treason and using the communication media to foment discord which could end up undermining the state and destroying our hard-earned democracy.

We are aware for example, as to how the use of demagoguery and hate speeches propelled the Nazi party led by Adolf Hitler to victory in Germany in 1938. The end result was that 60 million people ended up dead as a result of an avoidable war instigated by the Nazis and their allies. Countries in Europe and elsewhere sensibly responded by saying NEVER AGAIN!!

They enforced this position by passing stringent anti-defamation laws with strong penalties to deter those who use speeches and imagery to target groups. This has had salutary effects. Till date in Germany, it is illegal to wear insignia depicting support for the Nazi party. This in no way tramples on free speeches but guarantees it. Groups must be protected in a democratic setting and the state has a moral duty and political obligation to move against those who wish to undermine it by sowing discord. In contemporary terms, the sad example of the misuse of Radio Rwanda should serve as a warning to those who equate licentiousness with democracy. Within a week 800,000 innocent souls were laid to waste as a result of the inability or unwillingness of the state to regulate the broadcasting station.

Regulation is key. It has to be stated here, that self-regulation is not working assiduously as it should. Everyone in the formal and the informal media must realise that they have a duty to modulate extreme views in order to preserve their own freedom to operate. Let no one be in doubt, the proponents of hate speeches have an authoritarian disposition which is irreconcilable with the ethos of democracy. Once they have achieved their aim, out goes any pretence of democracy. This is a vital and recurring decimal in contemporary history. We must be forewarned. For It is the inadequacy of self-regulation that has led to the development of this toxic atmosphere in the first place.

Hate Speeches and Lessons of Rwanda By Lai Mohammed

It was Gina Greenlee who said ‘’experience is a master teacher, even if it is not our own.’’  I am sure many  have heard or read about how hate speeches and incitement to violence played a significant role in the 1994 genocide that left at least 800,000 people dead in Rwanda. Well, it is worth rehashing here for the purpose of this discourse.


Anti-Tutsi articles and cartoons in the Kangura newspaper, as well as hate speech and incitement to violence on the radio station called RTLMC – Radio-Television Libres des Mille Collines (Thousand Hills Free Radio and Television) helped to set the stage for that genocide. The station was set up by hard-line Hutu extremists, and received the backing of many rich and prominent people in that country. Those who saw the danger posed by the station called for it to be shut down, but against the backdrop of freedom of speech, such calls fell on deaf ears, until it was too late. Some 23 years later, Rwanda is yet to fully recover from the impact of the genocide, triggered by hate speech and senseless incitement to violence.

In Nigeria today, the hate being spewed on radio stations across the country is so alarming. If you tune into many radio stations, you will be shocked by the things being said, the careless incitement to violence and the level of insensitivity to the multi-religious, multi-ethnic nature of our country. Unfortunately, even the hosts of such radio programmes do little or nothing to stop. Oftentimes, they are willing collaborators of hate speech campaigners. This must not be allowed to continue because it is detrimental to the unity and well-being of our country.

 Let me use my own personal experiences to make these more vivid. On Wednesday, 26 April 2017, after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, I briefed State House Correspondents on what transpired at the meeting. I said, among others, that President Muhammadu Buhari did not preside over the day’s meeting because he decided to work from home that day. In reporting my briefing, one of the correspondents quoted me as saying the President would work from home henceforth, rather than on that day only. The reporting generated a lot of uproar, until I issued a rebuttal. This is a clear case of disinformation – which is defined as false information deliberately spread to deceive the people.

The following month, after I had briefed State House Correspondents on the proceedings of another Council meeting, one newspaper’s headline went thus: ‘’We do not know who will sign the 2017 budget – Lai Mohammed.’’ This is at variance with what I said.

When I was asked a question relating to the signing of the 2017 budget, my exact words were: ‘’When it is transmitted to the Presidency, a decision will be taken.’’ The reporting is another clear case of disinformation.

Also in May 2017, I travelled to China on official assignment. I had just arrived in that country, after a long flight, when I started receiving calls from Nigeria, seeking my reaction to a story making the rounds in the Social Media, quoting me as saying that though President Muhammadu Buhari is in a London hospital, he is using Made-in-Nigeria drugs. I purportedly made the comment in an interview with Channels Television, after the Federal Government’s launch of the Made-in-Nigeria campaign in Abuja a few days earlier. At first, I chose to ignore the story, saying Nigerians would easily see the folly of it. But the phone calls from Nigeria became more frequent and more intense, to such an extent that they could no longer be ignored. I had to put a call through to Mr. John Momoh, and Channels Television promptly issued a rebuttal, saying it neither interviewed me nor carried any such story. This is a clear case of fake news.

Many will also recall the quantum of hate speech directed at candidate Buhari during the last electioneering campaign. Never in the history of electioneering campaign in Nigeria has such a quantum of hate speech been directed at any candidate.

Many will also recall the quantum of hate speech directed at candidate Buhari during the last electioneering campaign. Never in the history of electioneering campaign in Nigeria has such a quantum of hate speech been directed at any candidate. This did not stop even when he won the election and became President. For instance, the President had hardly left Nigeria for his vacation in London on 19 January 2017, during which he said he would have routine medical check-up, when these hate and fake news campaigners circulated the news that he has died. Between then and now, they have repeated similar fakes news times without number.

Let me be clear: all the instances I have cited did not happen by accident. No! They were all orchestrated. And who better to target than the President himself, or the official spokesperson of his government! The campaign is a multi-million naira project and the people behind this string of hate speech, disinformation and fake news are not about to stop. In fact, they will become more vicious in the days, weeks and months ahead. And what is the purpose of their campaign? Simply to discredit the government, destabilise the polity and make the country ungovernable. There is no doubt that the resurgent push for separatism as well as rising cases of ethnic and religious disharmony are all traceable to the growing phenomenon of hate speech, as well as the disinformation and fake news campaign.

A section of the traditional media is also now thriving on anti-government tendency. If you pick up copies of some newspapers, you will think the government of the day is doing nothing at all to alleviate the sufferings of the people, occasioned by the economic downturn


During my visit to the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) House in Lagos, I had said that any programme tagged Nigerian or local content programme, which is meant for the consumption of Nigerians, must be produced in Nigeria, rather than in foreign countries. The hate speech, disinformation and fake news campaigners quickly distorted what I said and went ahead to report that the Federal Government has decided to ban the production of music videos and films outside the countries. Gullible and malleable commentators, many of them recruited by the campaigners, went to town abusing me and the federal government, without even trying to know the truth. Such is the tragedy of our time.

Now, what do these phenomena of hate speech, disinformation and fake news have in common? They are all capable of destabilising the system, inciting people to violence and weakening the people’s confidence in their government, just like I said earlier. Let me quote how a German newspaper described this phenomenon: ‘’For a society in which people are informed mainly through the media – and form their political opinions through it – this process is threatened when lies spread through the media. When it is no longer clear what is false and what is correct, people lose their confidence in the state’’.

Nigeria is a country of ethnic and religious diversity. That should be a source of strength, if the fault lines are not deliberately being exposed and exploited by those who are bent on setting the people against themselves, using their new-found tools of hate speech, disinformation and fake news.

This dangerous trend is threatening the very foundation of our national unity. It is daily pushing the nation close to the precipice, perhaps more than at any other time since the end of the civil war.

What is the way out? We all must say NO to hate speech, either on our radio and television stations, newspapers, the Social Media, on our phones or in the public space. We must be resolute in tackling the canker-worm of hate speech, disinformation and fake news. We as government information managers must embark on a relentless campaign against these evil tendencies at our various levels, whether federal or state. We must boycott any medium that engages in hate speech, incitement to violence, disinformation and fake news. The regulators must also be alive to their responsibilities by promptly sanctioning the purveyors of hate speech, disinformation and fake news. Yes, our constitution allows freedom of speech and this government believes in it, but freedom of speech must not be allowed to become freedom of irresponsibility.

We are also appealing to the media, the traditional media in particular, to show responsibility by repudiating the freewheeling and out-of-control purveyors of hate speech, disinformation and fake news. Unlike the Social Media, the traditional media is subject to the rigours of accuracy, fact-checking and fairness, among others. Sadly, even a section of the traditional media now apes the hate campaigners by lifting their unverified or distorted news and dumping such on their readers. This is not right.

A section of the traditional media is also now thriving on anti-government tendency. If you pick up copies of some newspapers, you will think the government of the day is doing nothing at all to alleviate the sufferings of the people, occasioned by the economic downturn. They ignore any positive actions of government, including the massive investment in infrastructure like roads and railways, and instead focus on anything that will make the government look bad.

Instead of reporting the news freely and fairly, they have constituted themselves to an opposition bloc.

It is only because we have a peaceful country that we have journalists, doctors, teachers, lawyers, etc all practising their trade. If we allow our country to be plunged into crisis just because of the antics of an irresponsible few, neither the journalists nor any other professionals will be able to practise their professions. This is the blunt truth. We all have a stake in this country, hence we must not allow hate campaigners and purveyors of fake news and disinformation to drag the country down with them.

*Excerpted from  a speech by Mohammed,  Minister of Information and Culture , at the extra-ordinary meeting of the National Council on Information in Jos on 21 July 2017.

We Must Denounce Hate Speeches – Osinbajo

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on Wednesday urged leaders across the country to speak out against hate speeches and divisive comments.

He made the call during the opening session of a meeting with leaders of thoughts from the South East, at the old Banquet Hall of the State House, Abuja.

He stressed that it is not the time to hide under any ethnic or religious platform to support comments that divide rather than unite the nation.

 Osinbajo urged leaders to raise their voices against the present strident divisive speeches in the country, saying “violence pays no one.”

Noting that the meeting was very urgent and crucial because of the current hate speeches and divisive comments across the country, the acting President said the situation requires urgent attention from all concerned.


“Violence and war are not going to do anyone any good. Wars today hardly end. No one who has seen the face of wars even on television will wish it for anyone. We should not tolerate hate speeches or divisive comments,” he said.

He reiterated Federal Government’s resolve to deal with any troublemaker who threatens the peaceful coexistence of Nigeria.

The acting President added: “There is no doubt on the resolve of government not to allow anyone get away with hate speeches and divisive words. Our emotion should not be allowed to run wide so as to threaten the existence of anyone anywhere in Nigeria.

“We will do everything within our power to protect the lives of every citizen anywhere and in any part of the country.”

While thanking the leaders for their prompt response to the consultative meeting, Osinbajo said he expects fruitful and frank deliberations at the meeting.

Those at the meeting were – Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, some state governors –  Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), David Umahi (Ebonyi), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Willie Obiano (Anambra), and Rochas Okorocha (Imo).

Others are – the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari; Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno and other top government officials.

Former Senate President, Ken Namani; Senator Eyinaya Abaribe, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Senator Joy Emodi, Prof. Viola Nwuleri.