By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
A Constitutional lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Sebastine Hon (SAN) has kicked against the Senate’s newly proposed bill prescribing death by hanging for any person found guilty of any form of hate speech that results in the death of another person.
The SAN averred that hate speech in advanced criminal jurisdictions has been used effectively to check anti-government speeches and to launch a reign of terror on opposition or dissenting voices.
Citing the provisions of the Penal and Criminal Codes of other countries, Hon described the proposed bill as “extremely harsh and high-handed”.
While calling on Nigerians to reject the bill, he urged members of the green chambers to exercise caution stressing that the proposed bill is excessive and should not be tolerated.
He called on members of the 8th Assembly to take a look at the Penal and Criminal Codes of other countries saying, “In Germany, the Strafgestzbuch (Germany’s Criminal Code) stipulates a maximum prison term of 5 years for offenders, while in Iceland, the maximum sentence is 2 years.
“In Netherlands, the Dutch Criminal Code, in section 137c and 137d stipulates a jail term of not more than one year, while in Canada, the punishments, depending on the category, range from 6 months to 2 years and then 5 years. In Bosnia, the maximum sentence is five years – as confirmed by the European Court of Human Rights in the recent case of Smajic vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina (2018) ECHR (Application No. 48657/16).
“In England and Wales, the Public Order Act, 1986, as amended severally by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994, the Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2006 and the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act of 2008, has stipulated a punishment not exceeding 7 years.
He added that the bill if allowed in Nigeria will present a worst picture given the nature and manner politics are usually played out in everything in Nigeria.
“Hence apart from the punishment for hate speech being excessive, I am hereby advocating suspension of the Bill or refusal by the President to assent to it. Power is transient, hence anything which could compromise freedom of speech and other forms of constitutionally guaranteed freedoms must be vigorously avoided and or resisted.
“I, therefore, call for either suspension of this Bill or a reconsideration of the punishments named therein for offenders to a maximum of 5 years imprisonment” he added.