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Nigeria Senators Splits Over Anti-Social Media Bill

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ABUJA- The Senate caucus of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday vowed that it would fight against any Bill that would be designed to remove the rights and freedom of Nigerians that have been guaranteed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

According to the PDP Senators, they would in all its ramifications kick against any law aimed at attacking fundamental human rights of Nigerians.

Speaking on behalf of opposition Senators, yesterday, Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, PDP, Abia while reacting to comments by visiting members of Leadership and Accountability Initiative, said that the right thing would be done, adding that the 9th Senate will not abridge the rights of Nigerians against the backdrop that if allowed, the Senate would end up disappointing Nigerians who voted for them as lawmakers.

Senator Abaribe was flanked by his deputy, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, PDP, Taraba South and Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Yau Sabi, PDP, Zamfara North.

Recall that last week, the Senate proposed a new Bill tagged: ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019’ which proposes a three-year jail term for anyone involved in the abuse of social media.)

The Anti-Social Media Bill is sponsored by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa, APC, Niger East.

Speaking further, Senator Abaribe who noted that there are already laws that deal with the issues the proposed law seeks to achieve, however urged Nigerians to respect the rights of others while expressing their views.

Abaribe said: “There is no speed with which this Bill is being passed. The first reading of a Bill is automatic. We can’t make a comment on what is still on the first stage.

“What I can assure you is that this Senate can’t be a party to removing the rights of Nigerians under any. Section 39 of the Constitution talks about our freedom as citizens. The 9th Senate will not abridge your rights.

“I don’t think Nigerians who fought and paid the supreme to entrench this democracy will easily give it away and make us go back to the dark days. Rest assured that when we get to that point, we will stand for the people. Every Bill that passes here must pass through the rigors to ensure that it protects the rights of over 200 million Nigerians.

“We have a plethora of laws that can be used to drive the question of driving a free society. While social media can be good, it can also be bad. I am a victim of social media.

“As much as there is freedom, yours stops where another person’s own starts. We urge Nigerians not to propagate falsehood or fake news. Our job is to guarantee the freedoms and rights of both sides.”

Earlier, Leader of the visiting group, Nwaruruahu Shield who argued that there were since there were already existing laws, it will be irrelevant to promote a new anti-social media restrictions, said: “It is imperative to note that there is an already existing provisions in the Nigeria constitution which define in plain terms about defamation which states that: A defamation matter is defined in section 373 of the criminal code as a matter likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule or likely to damage any person in his profession or trade by injury to his reputation.

“Seeing that Nigeria has more than enough laws such as the section 373 of the criminal code, the Cybercrimes 2015 Act and other existing laws, it has become obvious that what the sponsor(s) (covertly and overtly) of this bill seek to do is to gag the social media and dictate to us what we can say and what not.

“The Anti-Social Media Bill ingeniously tagged The Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019 and sponsored by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa.

“It is a dangerous, anti-people, anti-democracy bill that has been cleverly crafted to silence genuine and valid opposition to the misruling and gross impunity of any ruling government (at the national and sub-national) by a citizenry that now majorly relies on the social media to vent their frustrations and dissatisfaction with certain government policies and actions.

“The social media is now the last hope of the common man, and arguably the only “free” means left for questioning the status quo and demanding for leadership accountability. The ruling government has captured the country, annexed the legislature, emasculated the Judiciary, prevailed on the media and divided the labour movement and also the civil society. The social media is now seen as the last impediment to an emerging fascist state in Nigeria.”

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