Resolve to ensure bill is thrown out
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, Wednesday, vehemently opposed alleged moves to pass the controversial Social Media Bill into law.
The CSOs numbering seven including the Center for Liberty, Tap Initiative, Global Rights, Fredrick Nwabufo, Lex Initiative for Rights Advocacy and Development, LIRAD, made their stand known at a press conference held in Abuja.
Speaking on behalf of other CSOs, the Co-Convener, Center for Liberty, Raphael Adebayo, described the alleged move to pass the bill into law is disturbing and worrisome as it will be an ‘intransigent enabler of tyranny’ that would be a disservice to over 200 million Nigerians.
Adebayo further stated that following the massive rejection of the bill at the public hearing that makes it ‘dead’ since it directly infringes on the constitutional rights of Nigerians, and shrinks the civic space for the fact that the bill is still alive in the senate.
He said: “We have read with utmost concern, the alleged plan by the 9th Senate to pass the social media bill despite its widespread rejection by Nigerians.
“According to the popular news medium that published the story, it is alleged that “they (the senate) have already concluded plans to pass the bill. They are going to hide behind the COVID-19 issue and other national issues and pass the bill without delay. Their plan is to do it once they resume. It is already signed.
“This, in our opinion, is most disturbing and all Nigerians should be worried. Passing the social media bill in such an underhanded manner would not only mean that the Senate is unwilling to listen to Nigerians, but also that it is willing to be an intransigent enabler of tyranny. For a fact, we know that the said bill was overwhelmingly rejected by Nigerians across all fields of endeavor during the public hearing on the bill.
“Our expectation following the public hearing on the said bill was a swift and decisive death of the bill, considering it will not only constrain citizens’ right to freedom of expression but also assault and shrink the limitlessness of our civic spaces. The fact that the bill is still alive in the senate is enough to heighten our suspicion that there may be a sinister motive to pass the bill despite its rejection by Nigerians.”
He (Adebayo) also recalled that the way the Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020 was unexpectedly signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari and said Nigerians will not accept a surreptitious passage of the Social Media bill.
“Again, the threat of the social media bill becoming law in Nigeria is made real when we remember how the incumbent government passed the Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020, and the Reviewed Broadcasting Code, inserting nefarious clauses and sections into both, thereby bringing universal freedoms known to democracy under conspicuous and unchallenged threat in Nigeria.
“As civil society organizations, we have always considered ourselves to be progressive partners of the National Assembly, and in this case, the Nigerian Senate. It is, therefore, worthy of note that Nigerians will not accept a surreptitious passage of the social media bill, and such a move will drastically plunge our faith and confidence in the 9th Senate to the lowest nadir.
“Having read the swift denial of the Senate to the report by the popular news medium, however, we are encouraged to remain cautiously optimistic that the Senate would not betray the Nigerian people bypassing the social media bill.”
The CSOs also appealed to the Chairman Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, to accept the voice of Nigerians rejecting the bill overwhelmingly.
“Nevertheless, we want to urge Senator Opeyemi Bamidele’s Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to accept the overwhelming rejection of the obnoxious bill by Nigerians, and forward a report on same to the committee of the whole”, they said.
The CSOs also assured Nigerians they want to believe that the Senate is not really going ahead to pass the bill but reposed confidence in them that the bill is swiftly ‘killed’ without further delay.
“We equally want to strongly recommend that, to reassure all Nigerians that there is no sinister agenda to pass the social media bill, the Nigerian Senate must swiftly kill the social media bill and focus on other legislative matters like electoral reforms and constitutional review, among others that are of utmost importance to our beloved country.”