By Francesca Merlo
Nigeria’s National Assembly has proposed a Bill that seeks to apply Capital Punishment to those found guilty of hate speech.
Hearing of this new Bill, Fr Patrick Alukumu says that the first thing the Church sees is that the “Nigerian government appears to not be conscious of the rights of Nigerians”, or of the rights of expression in general, he adds. He says there is hope that the government and the National Assembly will be the first to view that this Bill "infringes the rights of the people".
Fr Patrick explains that the interesting thing about this Bill is that what the government is describing as “hate speech” is actually “what they do not want to hear”. This Bill, he says, says nothing about “the need to speak the truth”. If there is something that is true, even if it does go against the government, “it cannot be described as hateful”. But, the government does not seem to want to promote the truth, he says. "Let the truth be told!"
Describing it as “counterproductive”, Fr Patrick explains that it makes little sense to “talk about development and progress” in an environment in which those who say "things that are not pleasing" the government “can be attacked and can be arrested”.
With regards to the punishment, the death penalty, Fr Patrick describes it as “totally unacceptable”, especially from the point of view of the Church. “The Church”, says Fr Patrick, has continuously said that “we can correct people who do wrong", but we cannot take away people's rights. "Only God can try people and only God can take away rights”.
Finally, Fr Patrick says that there is “relative peace” in the country, and that as “we head towards Christmas, Nigerians are anxiously looking forward” to developing it.
“Although things are not as great as they have been”, he concludes, “we do have peace, and for that, we thank God”.