Former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), has condemned the Hate Speech Bill before the National Assembly, warning its sponsors 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.
General Babangida spoke during the visit of the national leadership of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) on Wednesday at his hilltop residence in Minna, the Niger State capital.
He said the ‘Hate Speech Bill’ before the National Assembly was antithetical and no one can muzzle the voice of Nigerians.
The former military President noted that a similar bill was presented before the 8th National Assembly and he advised against it saying, he was surprised that the bill has resurfaced.
“There is no basis for this; now, we are developing and we should be allowed to develop,” he said.
“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,he added.”
General Babangida noted that government at all levels would only experience progress when people were able 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 leader 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.”
General Babangida, however, informed his visitors that he would join the NUJ and other stakeholders to protest against the passage of the bill.
“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 assured.
He further explained that he had been following media reports on the forth coming United States election, saying Journalists would have been jailed in Nigeria if that was the case.
He credited himself with opening up the media space in the country, even when some of his colleagues opposed his policy, saying the country was better for it.
The self -styled military President, therefore, tasked the media to remain strong and focussed on the needs and aspirations of Nigeria and Nigerians , stressing that inhibiting freedom of speech with death threat or a N10 million fine, sounded ‘silly’.
Earlier, the NUJ National President, Christopher Isiguzo, solicited the support of General Babangida to halt the Hate Speech Bill before the National Assembly.