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The Senate Should Refrain From Gagging Nigerians - NLC
12-Jan-2016


The bill sponsored by Senator Ibn Na’Allah of the All Progressive Congress representing Kebbi South Senatorial District titled Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Related Matters Bill which seek not only to gag freedom of the citizen to express themselves but to commit violators to a minimum of two years jail term is completely anti-democracy and an infringement on the rights of Nigerians to all the fundamental freedoms guaranteed in the 1999 constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria as well as Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The bill is coming at a time we expect our legislators and indeed, all Nigerians to recommit themselves to actions and legislations that can contribute to deepening democracy as well as fight against corruption in our country. The bill, which proposes an option of N4 million as fine for those claimed to have made false newspaper, radio or television statements and N2 million for those claimed to have made false phone text messages or statements on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, or WhatsApp is a sad reminder of the military era when journalists were mindlessly hurled into jail for writing what the military junta considered spiteful. For us, we believe our legislators should know our country is in dire need of strong legislations on critical areas of our national life that demands speedy attention rather than concentrate on frivolous, uncivilised, image damaging debates on a bill that is obviously intended to circumscribe the rights of Nigerians to ask questions when their leaders engage in conducts that further injure our collective interests and image. We are completely opposed to the bill, which is an affront on our constitution as well as international conventions and legal instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory. Democracy cannot thrive when rights as fundamental as freedom of opinion is criminalised. We advise the promoter of the bill to immediately withdraw it just as we urge the entire members of the senate to protect their image from global ridicule by unanimously rejecting the draconian bill. Our laws already provided for redress in court should anyone feel offended by any publication or opinion. The proposed bill is simply conceived to protect individuals from public scrutiny, which clearly encourages corruption and renders the Freedom of Information Act and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria useless. The bill is not in any national interests but an advancement of the interests of the few who have slowed this country down through corrupt practices and manipulation of our system to serve personal interests. The bill is totally unacceptable and a threat to the growth of democracy as it is a direct attack on the fundamental rights of our people. We reject it and urge all senators to reject it. We are committed not only to promote democracy but also protect it against damages as severe as the bill portends. We fought for democracy alongside majority of Nigerians and we will not allow jaundiced politicians who were sleeping when others were fighting for democracy on our streets use their privileged positions in contemporary times to truncate the system. We also urge the Federal Government against the bill because it is a deliberate counter to the avowed commitment of the present government to the struggle against corruption. Peters Adeyemi Acting President .

 

 


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