General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), who is the former Military President of Nigeria has lent his voice against the Hate Speech Bill, warning the sponsors of the bill not to try to muzzle Nigerians.
He said the bill was inimical to the growth of the country and does not support the ideals of a democratic society.
The General spoke when the national leadership of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) paid him a visit on Wednesday at his hilltop residence in Minna, the Niger State capital.
He condemned the ‘Hate Speech Bill’ before the National Assembly and no one can muzzle the voice of Nigerians.
General Badamasi said he was surprised the bill resurfaced, after he advised against similar bill that was submitted before the 8th National Assembly.
He said; “There is no basis for this; now we are developing and we should be allowed to develop.”
He added, “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.”
The General said that progress is experienced at all levels when government all people to express themselves on happenings in the country.
He stated that the only reason for the bill was that the sponsors wanted to show “eye service as we call it in the Army”.
The former military president also described the death penalty prescribed in the bill as “crude”.
He said, “If somebody made hate speech and you put him in the gallows and shoot him, it is crude; it is not 21st century. It could have happened may be some 300 years ago but not now.
The general, however, informed his visitors that he would join the NUJ and other stakeholders to protest against the passage of the bill.
He also assured that; “I am with you on this; I will also talk to those of us who could be in position to bring sanity to bear on some of these things.”
He said Journalist would have been jailed if it were in Nigeria following media publications on the United Stated forthcoming election.
He said even when his policy to open the media space in the country was opposed by his colleagues he still went ahead to implement that to his credit.
The general, therefore, encouraged the media to remain strong focussed on what Nigeria wants, stressing that threatening freedom of speech with death or N10 Million ‘silly’.
Christopher Isiguzo, the NUJ National president earlier solicited the support of the former military president to bring down the hate speech bill before the National Assembly.