Nigerians reject Anti-Social Media Bill

Posted by News Express | 10 March 2020 | 569 times

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The controversial anti-social media bill, on Monday, suffered a dead sentence from Nigerians, who vehemently opposed and rejected its passage at the public hearing by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.

This was as the sponsor of the bill, Senator Mohammed Musa Sani (APC, Niger East), who could not withstand the merciless bashing given to the proposal, ran away from the venue of Public hearing.

The bill entitled: “Protection from Internet Falsehoods, Manipulations and Other Related Matters”, was also rejected by various Nigerian publics during a recent public summit, organised five weeks ago in Abuja by the Daar Communications Limited.

The vehement opposition to the legislative proposal was always hinged on the perception by most Nigerians, that the bill was designed to stifle press freedom.

At the public hearing yesterday, the National President of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).

Comrade Chris Isiguzo, who led the opposition against the bill, said that the bill sought to pigeon- hole Nigerians from freely expressing themselves.

Kicking against the proposal, Isiguzo, urged Nigerians to reject it, stressing that democracy was imperiled when citizens rights were trampled upon through legislation.

He said: “This bill, going by its provisions, is an unnecessary proliferation of laws since targeted offences are already covered by the criminal code or penal code and even latest legislations like the Cybercrime law of 2015.

“Proliferation of laws is not a unique ingredient of Democratic governance, one of the reasons the Senate should discard the bill.

“Though fake news is worse than Coronavirus but people should not be stopped from their inalienable right of freedom of speech.

“Rather than seeking to regulate end-users of the various social platforms, the platforms should be the focus of such regulation as obtainable in other countries”.

Also speaking against the bill, the former NUJ Chairman in Lagos State, Lanre Arogundade, now Executive Director of International Press Centre (IPC), said that provisions of the bill negated that of African Chatter of Peoples and Human Rights, which Nigeria is signatory to.

He particularly condemned section 3(1) part 2 of the bill which according to him, seeks to criminalise criticisms of Public Officials.

In a similar token, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), Professor Umar Dambata, gave the bill a technical knock-out as he declared that provisions of the bill were difficult to implement even if passed into law.

According to the NCC boss, the Commission only provides infrastructure for social media platforms and not in any way, regulates their contents.

“Provisions of the draft copy of the bill were thoroughly dissected by our legal department with submissions that many of them are infracting on extant laws like the Cybercrime law of 2015, Data Protection law etc.

“Besides, as submitted by our legal department, provisions of the bill seek to give too much power to the Police which will invariably lead to infringement or violation of citizens’ rights aside drafting anomalies inherent in all the provisions.

“On account of the afore stated reasons, the NCC seeks for its withdrawal for the purposes of completely redrafting it in a way that will not trample with constitutional rights Nigerians “, he said .

Also, in his submission, the Executive Director of YIAGA Africa, Samson Itodo, said that the bill was nothing but legislative overkill, pointing out that the bill seeks to remove food from the table of young people and must be killed.

“Kill this bill and Nigerians will be happy for it “, he urged.

Absence of the sponsor of the bill, Senator Sani Musa, who was at the session from the beginning, was made known when Publisher of the Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore was called upon to make his submission.

Sowore said that it was painful that Senator Sani Musa was no longer around to hear from him directly, alleging that the lawmaker plagiarised the content of the bill from Singapore without considering the fact that what worked in Singapore might not work in Nigeria.

He stated that the purpose of the bill was nothing other than to protect those in power by stopping those who are not satisfied with actions of government from voicing out.

The Chairman of DAAR Communications, Raymond Dokpesi (Jnr), Chairman of Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria (BON) Sa’ad Ibrahim , Executive Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Clement Nwankwo etc , were other contributors who vehemently kicked against the bill.

However, representatives of the Nigerian Army and the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, supported the bill, hinging their position on national interest.

While declaring the public hearing open, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, assured Nigerians  that the National Assembly would not arrogate to itself the power of exclusively passing the social media bill into law without inputs from the Nigerian public.

According to Lawan, freedom of speech and the inalienable rights of man are issues which should not be compromised under any guise. (New Telegraph)



Source: News Express

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