A POLITICAL Officer in the Embassy of the United States of America (U.S.A.), Jerry Howard, yesterday met with Senate Deputy Chief Whip and sponsor of the controversial Hate Speech Bill, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi.
Howard expressed satisfaction with the research the senator did on the Bill, according to a statement from Senator’s media office.
According to the embassy official, the visit was intended to engage Abdullahi and seek an understanding into the proposed legislation under consideration by the Senate.
Following explanations by the senator, Howard said he was better educated about the Bill, reports in the media notwithstanding.
He advised the senator to engage and educate non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs) on its proposed contents to muster support for the Bill.
Speaking on the decision of the U.S. Embassy to engage the National Assembly on the Hate Speech Bill, Howard said: “We want Nigeria to succeed and we think a prerequisite for Nigeria’s success is successful democracy.
“For democracy to succeed, the people must have a house, the people must have a place where their representatives can argue and complain, come up with new ideas and come up with solutions to guide the executive branch and lead the country forward.”
He commended the lawmaker for the level of work and research carried out on the bill.
“I’m very impressed with the research you’ve done on the bill. The media has had a field day with this, really.
“You’ve thought it through. I was depending on the media for my education, and it was very misleading. You’ve done your research and it is very interesting.
“But you have a difficult job selling this to the NGOs, CSOs. You need to talk to them. You’ll need to talk to Civil Society Organizations, you need to educate them. You’ve educated me,” Howard said after the senator explained the bill’s contents.
On why he introduced the bill, Abdullahi said: “Part of the reasons why violence takes place is attributable to discriminatory practices.
“It is discrimination that creates the socio-political imbalance that you see leading to a group feeling shortchanged and marginalised.
“Discrimination is also another very serious matter why I sponsored the bill. This bill basically is about preventing discrimination and prohibiting people who incite violence.”
Abdullahi further stated that the bill’s introduction by the National Assembly has the backing of Section 45 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
The Section states: “Nothing in Sections 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of this Constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society; in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom or other persons.”
On measures put in place to guard the bill against abuse, Abdullahi explained: “An Independent Commission shall be constituted and whose membership will be restricted to persons without any history of promoting ethnic or religious causes, or anyone with political affiliations.”
He added that the passage of the bill into law will address all forms of discrimination, hostility and violence which are on the rise in the country.