PROTESTERS, numbering one hundred, yesterday stormed the National Assembly to press on the Senators to as a matter of urgency, jettison of Hate Speech and Social Media bills presently before the Upper Chamber.
The protest was led yesterday to the National Assembly gate by a Civil Activist, Deji Adeyanju, and described the bills as “obnoxious”.
Meanwhile, during the protest, a Policeman assaulted a journalist while covering the protest.
During the protest, a policeman, Adiogu Enyinnaya, did not only assault but also seized the camera of Tosin Busayo of Roots Television.
The offence of Busayo, according to the policeman was that he was filming another Police Officer who was trying to prevent the protesters from gaining entrance into the Complex.
Enyinnaya, who led the police cordon had whipped the journalist with his baton and forcefully took his camera.
“Why would you be filming the policemen?” he demanded while threatening to arrest Busayo.
It took a combination of pleading and protest by other reporters before Enyinnaya released the camera.
The protesters called for the stoppage of the social media bill and the release of Omoyele Sowore, Abba Jalingo and others who are currently being held by security agencies against court orders.
The protesters were seen with placards bearing various inscriptions such as “Only A Repressive Regime Muscle The Media, Say No To Hate Speech And Social Media Bills.”
Adeyanju who noted that the bills are completely out of place having no place in a democracy, said, “We condemn it. These bills have no place in our laws and nation because the Cybercrime Act of 2015 has already aptly captured the provisions of these bills in its entirety.
“We want to draw the attention of the national assembly to the provision of Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act of 2015.
“Section of the Act has expressly captured all the provisions that the social media and hate speech bill ought to cover. We ask that these two obnoxious bills be shut down by the 9th Senate.”
Recall that the controversial bill for the Establishment of Hate Speech Commission Bill was read the first time at plenary in Senate, November 12.
It was sponsored by the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, APC, Niger North while that the Bill for an Act to Make Provisions for the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation had passed second reading in the Senate sponsored by Senator Sani Musa, APC-Niger East.
Adeyanju continued, saying, “At this point in time in our national lives, our country is in short demand of courageous men and women who will see what is wrong and call it by its name.
“We are at a time where fear, the love for personal safety has taken the place of patriotism and duty to country. We are gathered here because we want to stand for our country at this trying time.
“We know and look as if we have been overpowered and outnumbered by the government that should be at the mercy of the people by a legislature that should aggregate the interest of the common man. The legislature naturally supposes to be our representatives but I know that this legislature is not representing me and several persons.”
According to him, the 9th National Assembly especially the Senate has become notorious for joining forces with the executive arm of government to oppress Nigerians.
On his part, Henry Shield alleged that the bills were meant to facilitate a planned third term agenda for President Muhammadu Buhari.
Senators Uba Sani, All Progressives Congress, APC, Kaduna Central and Yakubu Oseni, APC, Kogi Central who received the protesters said the contribution of all segments of the society would be taken into consideration during public hearings on the bills.
On his part, Senator Yakubu Oseni debunked comments made by the protesters who quoted the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan as saying that the Senate will confirm any law or proposal brought to it from the Presidency, adding that what Lawan said was that whatever was in the interest of all Nigerians brought to it from the Presidency will be considered.
Senator Uba said, : “We have heard your agitation. We believe it is a very important agitation. Some of us in the Chamber has also been involved in the struggle for the enthronement of democracy in the country.
“The two bills in question are bills that were introduced by some of our colleagues. Some of us in the National Assembly, including the Senate President, would appear at the public hearing. Whatever Nigerians want is what the 9th Senate would do.
“The law is not about the 109 Senators. It is about Nigerians. Democracy is about free speech, it is about the rule of law. That is why their voices are extremely important.
“That is why we believe that your agitation is valid and also in the best interest of our own county. We are going to certainly work with you on the day of the public hearing.
“I have no doubt in my mind that if Nigerians don’t want these bills, even though they are being sponsored by our colleagues, certainly it won’t escape the public hearing. I can assure you we are going to do whatever is in the best interest of our own country.
“We are aware of Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act and some of us are on the same page with these agitations.
“We are not guided by any political affiliation. We are guided by the law and concerned about the progress of our own country.”
On his part, Yakubu Oseni said: “I want to assure you that the 9th Senate is not in any way an appendage of the executive.
“No single bill will pass without a public hearing. We are here to make laws for Nigerians not the Senate. We are all here to protect the interests of Nigerians.”