Former military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, has weighed in on the controversial Hate Speech Bill, saying nobody can Muzzle Nigerians and deny them freedom of speech.
General Babangida pointed out that there was even no basis for the bill which has passed the second reading in the Senate insisting that no one can deny Nigerians their fundamental rights.
Babangida spoke in his Minna Uphill residence when he received visiting National President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Chief Christopher Isiguzo.
The Protection from Internet Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill and the National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches Bill were recently introduced in the Senate.
Babangida recalled that a similar bill was presented before the eighth National Assembly and he advised against.
“I am surprised that this bill has resurfaced. There is no basis for this now. We are developing; we should be allowed to develop. If we make mistakes people can be cautioned. If somebody goes off you have the right to call him to say, ‘no, we don’t want this.’
“Unless people are able to express themselves, those in government or in authority will not know what is happening in the country.”
The former military president said the Bill was an “eye service” by the sponsor, describing the death penalty prescribed in the bill as “crude and wicked
“If somebody makes hate speech, put him in the gallows and not shoot him. It is crude and out of tune with the 21st-century reality. It could have happened, maybe some 300 years ago, but not now.”
Babangida vowed to team up with the NUJ and other stakeholders in protesting against the passage of the bill saying, “I am with you on this. I will also talk to those of us who could be in a position to bring sanity to bear on some of these things.”
The former military president said he had been following media publications on the forthcoming American election, adding, “if we had their type of media, I think they should be jailing you all by now.”
He credited himself with opening up the media space even when some of his colleagues opposed his policy.
“But today, the country is better for it,” he said.
He challenged the media to remain strong and focussed on what Nigerians wants, maintaining that the nation can only succeed if we allow unfettered freedom without death threat or N10 million fine, which he said sounded silly.
Earlier, the NUJ president had solicited the support of the former military president to bring down the bill before the National Assembly.
He described Hate Speech Bill as anti-democracy and anti-people and, therefore, must be killed.