Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 general elections, has described the proposed anti-hate speech bill before the National Assembly as an abuse of legislative process.
In a statement on Tuesday, the former vice president said the bill is one which will violate the right of Nigerians to their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech.
He stated that the bill sponsored by Senator Sabi Abdullahi is obnoxious, adding that the lawmakers should rather make laws to tackle pressing domestic challenges across the country.
“The contemplation of such laws is in itself not just hate speech, but an abuse of the legislative process that will violate Nigerians’ constitutionally guaranteed right to Freedom of Speech.
“Freedom of Speech was not just bestowed to Nigerians by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), it is also a divine right given to all men by their Creator. History is littered with the very negative unintended consequences that result when this God-given right is obstructed by those who seek to intimidate the people rather than accommodate them.
“We should be reminded that history does not repeat itself. Rather, men repeat history. And often, to disastrous consequences,” the statement read.
Atiku urged the Senate to prioritise Nigerians’ challenges and proffer solutions to them rather than sponsoring a bill that intends to allegedly curtail the rights of Nigerians.
“Nigeria presently has too many pressing concerns. We are now the world headquarters for extreme poverty as well as the global epicentre of out-of-school children. Our economy is smaller than it was in 2015, while our population is one of the world’s fastest growing. We have retrogressed in the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, from the position we held four years ago, and our Human Development Indexes are abysmally low.
“It therefore begs the question: should we not rather make laws to tackle these pressing domestic challenges, instead of this Bill, which many citizens consider obnoxious?” the former vice president asked.
The Hate Bill Speech bill passed the first reading at the Senate on Tuesday.