- As Reps dissociates self from ignoble Bill, joins Nigerians
By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
Vehement oppositions from Nigerians were visited on two controversial bills before the Senate, both seeking to gag the freedom of expression by ordinary Nigerians, including the Internet Falsehood Manipulation Bill and Hate Speeches Bill.
This is even as sponsors of the Bills, Senators Sani Musa (APC Niger East) and Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC Niger North), were threatened by stakeholders to withdraw the bills from the Senate in the interest of peace.
Opposition against the bills came to the fore at the Town Hall meeting organised on them by African Independent Television (AIT) at the NAF Conference Centre.
Troubles slammed on the bills at the round table session after presentations by their sponsors as virtually all the eight panelists were against the conception of the Bill in the first place.
The panelists of erudite freedom fighters ranging from the former Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Professor Chidi Odinkalu to the Chief Executive Officer, Connected Development (CODE), Hamzat Lawal, kicked against the two bills for allegedly being tailored at stiflingly the freedom of press and Speech contrary to what is enshrined in section 39 of the 1999 Constitution.
Specifically, Professor Odinkalu in his antagonism against the bills said neither the anti social media bill nor the Hate Speech bill will address the pervasive poverty and increasing wave of insecurity in the land.
According to him, it is ironic that the sponsors of the bills are from Niger State where innocent lives are being lost on daily basis to uncontrolled and unchecked attacks from armed bandits without any bill in that direction.
“Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi who sponsored the Hate Speech bill spent 20 minutes on presentation without mentioning a provision, while Senator Mohammed Sani Musa laboured to convince us that the anti social bill is not meant to stifle freedom of speech which by all intents and purposes, is the case.
“Nigerians want bill that will facilitate improvement of their wellbeing and security of their lives and property.
“Extant laws abound on what the two bills are aiming at. What is the work of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), National Human Rights Commission etc, that will warrant establishment of National Commission for Prohibition of Hate Speech”, he queried Senators Sabi and Musa.
Hamzat Lawal in his own objection to the bills raised two posers on who to decide hate speech or fake news. He said rather than wasting time and tax payers money on such bills, they should be discarded by the Sponsors, warning that if they refuse, …”.
Threats against the bills and their sponsors worsened when discussions on them were extended to the audience in form of questions and answers, as virtually all who contributed rejected them out rightly.
Leading the pack in this category was the National President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Chris Iziguzo, who said the two bills were anti people, anti freedom of speech and against the media, saying the Bills would be prevented from seeing the light of day.
Others like Deji Adeyanju of Concerned Nigerians Group and Barrister Daniel Makido, also kicked against the bills during the questions and answers session.
Barrister Makido even presented a judgement given by the ECOWAS Court in Abuja against the Hate Speech bill in November last year to the panelists.
According to him, since there is a subsisting judgement against the Hate Speech bill, it is Illegal for the Senate to continue entertaining the bill in form of consideration.
However, the sponsors of the bills at separate interviews with journalists after the town hall meeting, vowed to continue the push for their consideration and possible passage, saying “the bills are not about us but about unity and peaceful coexistence of Nigerians”.
The Town Hall meeting was declared open by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, who, apparently sensing catastrophe and violence against the Bill, quickly left the two senators who sponsored the Bills behind at the venue to defend it, but with the assurance that the senate will do what Nigerians decided at the town hall meeting.