“Hate Speech Bill” On Test Run In Niger State

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Even before the “Hate Speech Bill” and the “Social Media Bill” currently before the National Assembly could be passed into law and assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari, a test run of the bills has already begun in Niger State.

Incidentally, the suspect, or rather, the culprit, Abubakar Katcha, is a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Niger State; while the two Senators that sponsored the controversial bills, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, and Senator Mohammed Sani Musa respectively, also hail from Niger State.

You can see. That is why they say that those who throw stones in a market place may not know who is going be the victim. In other words, when the two Senators were crafting the bills, they did not know that charity was going to begin at home, that is to say, that the test run of the bills would begin in their home state, Niger.

Last Wednesday, December 4, 2019, Abubakar Katcha, was dragged to the Central Magistrate Court in Minna, Niger State, by the police, charged with “criminal conspiracy”, after lashing out at the Governor of the state, Abubakar Sani Bello, for alleged corruption and neglect of roads in the state.

According to the police officer prosecuting the case, the APC chieftain, Abubakar Katcha, had conspired with another man to post statements on social media that could “incite public interest” in the affairs of the state.

The prosecutor stated that the Katcha had accused Governor Sani Bello of “fraudulently diverting public funds to himself and his family”. And also that the “Niger State government was not able to repair roads within the state”.

Abubakar Katcha who described himself as “the latest victim of the ongoing crackdown on free speech across the country”, had already spent one night in the police custody following petitions against him by the Governor’s Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Balarabe.

The politician was however granted bail by the Magistrate court to the tune of the sum of N500,000, while the case was adjourned to December 17, this year.

This is just the beginning of the dangers ahead, government trying to gag freedom of speech, freedom of expression across the country. As soon as the Niger State experiment succeeds, then various states in the country as well as the federal government will be competing in the crackdown of vocal and opposition voices.

The implication is that from thenceforth, nobody is going to open his mouth to say anything bad about government in Nigeria, or to accuse those in government of nonperformance or any misdeed, to criticize those occupying government offices for not doing things properly, etc.

We will all shut our eyes to injustices in government, to corruption, to maladministration, to man’s inhumanity to man, etc, because if we do this or say anything contrary to what those in authority will like to hear, we would be ending in prison or pay with our lives. We will only be hailing and singing the choruses of those in government, and will be seeing them as the best thing to happen to us, and to Nigeria in general.

As such, we would have succeeded in killing democracy in Nigeria. There would be no opposition, no criticism of government policies and actions, no accountability, etc. Then, we would have entrenched the culture of silence – just accept whatever is given, and everything will be okay.

That will be the best way to enthrone mediocrity in the country, and that’s where we all may be heading to, in no distant time.

About Dons Eze

DONS EZE, PhD, Political Philosopher and Journalist of over four decades standing, worked in several newspaper houses across the country, and rose to the positions of Editor and General Manager. A UNESCO Fellow in Journalism, Dr. Dons Eze, a prolific writer and author of many books, attended several courses on Journalism and Communication in both Nigeria and overseas, including a Postgraduate Course on Journalism at Warsaw, Poland; Strategic Communication and Practical Communication Approach at RIPA International, London, the United Kingdom, among others.

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