Governors under the platform of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) have reacted to a contentious Hate Speech bill working its way through the National Assembly, advising that the body hold a public hearing to ensure that due process is followed.
The Federal Government had last week said the existing Cybercrime Act (2015) is enough to handle the purveyors of Hate Speech on social media.
The Hate Speech bill, sponsored by Senator Sabi Abdullahi, prescribes death by hanging for violators, resulting in calls for it to be jettisoned by the lawmakers as it violates free speech protections.
NGF Vice Chairman and Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal said this while responding to a question seeking to know if the Governors were in support of the bill at the end of Forum’s meeting Wednesday night in Abuja.
According to him, “I’m not sure I have heard any Governor come out to say he is in support of death penalty for Hate Speech.
“I believe the National Assembly should hold a public hearing on that bill, so that due process of lawmaking is followed so that the views of Nigerians and not just the Governors will be well captured on that bill.
“They should respect the views of Nigerians in whatever may be the direction of debate and the eventual passage or otherwise of that bill.”
A member of the House of Representatives, James Faleke, had disagreed with the death sentence prescription for Hate Speech as proposed by the bill currently before the Senate.
He said though there was a need to curb Hate Speech, the death penalty was, however, taking it to the extreme. He said he was in support of death penalty for terrorism and kidnapping.
On the threats by organised labour to go on strike by December over Minimum Wage, Tambuwal said: “Various state governments have been engaging with their branches of Nigerian Labour Congress. I’m sure it is work in progress, before December all the states must have finished working out the details on the issue of Minimum Wage across the federation.
“We are very much committed to the welfare and wellbeing of our workforce and therefore we shall continue to ensure we do our best on what needs to be done.”
On if the Forum was working on getting members to domesticate the Child Rights Act in their their states to reduce the number of out-of-school children, Tambuwal said, “I believe so many individual states have passed the law, the states that are having some delays have to do with either religious or cultural issues in addressing those issues at the local level, and they are handling and addressing those peculiarities depending on the situation of individual states.”
On the position of the Governors on the finance bill that has passed second reading to increase VAT from 5% to 7.5%, the NGF Vice Chairman said: “We are in support of that bill, we are in support of what will definitely improve on the revenue generation of the Federal Government and states. And we are appealing to those who don’t have proper understanding of the context of those bills to kindly have a rethink and reflect on the quantum of work that is ahead of us as a country and as states.
“We need a lot of resources to turn around infrastructure, to invest in education, health, in virtually every sector of our national life. So, there is urgent need for more revenues for Nigeria. So, we appeal that we should show more understanding with the Federal Government in that regard.”
The meeting was attended by Governors of Sokoto, Yobe, Zamfara, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Niger, Imo, Adamawa, Katsina, Plateau, Bauchi, and Kwara States.
Other States represented by Deputy Governors were Gombe, Enugu, Edo, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Oyo and Ebonyi.
By Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye,