BY BODE GBADEBO, Abuja
A coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs), has tackled the Senate over its alleged plan to secretly consider and pass the Social Media and Hate Speech Bills into law.
The coalition comprising Centre for Liberty, TAP Initiative, Global Rights, Fredrick Nwabufo, and Lex Initiative for Rights Advocacy and Development (LIRAD), said it was concerned about a news report on an online newspaper about the alleged plan by the 9th Senate to pass the controversial Bills, despite their widespread rejection by Nigerians.
At a press conference jointly addressed by the CSOs in Abuja on Wednesday, they urged the Senate to jettison the plan to pass the social media and hate speech Bills and rather focus on other important issues like electoral reforms and constitution review, which are of national importance.
“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 endeavour 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.
“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 by passing the social media Bill.
“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.
“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,” the coalition added.