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BY: RALPH EJIMKONYE

The three senators representing Imo State in the Senate, Senator Rochas Okorocha (Imo West Senatorial Zone) Senator Benjamin Uwajumuogu,(Imo North Senatorial Zone) and Senator Ezenwa Onyewuchi,(Imo East Senatorial Zone), have been advised to speak against the hate speech bill before the senate which is designed to muscle views expressed on the social media.

The bill also seeks the establishment of a National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech to help investigate and prosecute offenders.

The bill sponsored by the deputy chief whip, Aliyu Abdullahi, prescribes death penalty for anyone found guilty.

The Imo Awareness Coalition, IAC, in a statement in Owerri and signed by its publicity Secretary, Fred Echendu, advised the three senators from Imo State “not to keep mum or sit on the fence on the bill which has attracted widespread condemnation from majority of Nigerians”

“The Bill is meant to gag the media and it is worrisome that our three Senators from Imo State are yet to be seen in joining their patriotic colleagues the senate in making any contributions on the matter.

“Majority of Imo people particularly the Youths are opposed to this bill and we feel it is not in our interest for our Senators who are our representatives in the Senate to keep mute on such a topical and contentious issue

“Though we agree that the issue is not peculiar to Imo State alone, it is also not in the interest of majority of Imo youths, for the Bill to be passed into law.

“Imo State can be counted lucky to have quality senators who have in one way or the other, made useful contributions to issues of national importance, but we are surprised on how they are yet to speak on such a raging issue

“They must at all times be on the side of history, but kicking against obnoxious bills such as the bill to gag the social media.

The IAC advised the Senators to rather push for the introduction of the Cybercrime Act which has provisions and penalties for hate speech.

According to the group, the The Cyber Crimes (Prohibition, Prevention etc.) Act 2015 which was signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan, outlaws “cyberstalking” and stipulates that “any person who knowingly or intentionally sends a message or other matter by means of computer systems or network that is grossly offensive, pornographic or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character or causes any such message or matter to be so sent; or “He knows to be false, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another or causes such a message to be sent commits an offence under this Act and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not more than N7,000,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of not more than 3 years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

According to the group “Section 2 of the legislation further stated that any person who intentionally transmits any communication through a computer system or network to bully, threaten or harass another person, where such communication places another person in fear of death, violence or bodily harm or to another person” commits an offence under the act and shall be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years and/or a minimum fine of N25,000,000.00.

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