Last week, Nigerian senators moved a bill said to be aiming at silencing free speech on social media. The proposed bill to “Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters Connected Therewith” which particularly earmarks users of social and electronic media, has drawn immeasurable slams from Nigerians of all ages. And as the countless criticisms keep flooding the internet all opposing the bill sponsored by the Kebbi South Senatorial District representative, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, social media activists have arranged to march to the National Assembly Abuja on Tuesday December 8 for a rally tagged #NoToSocialMediaBill#.
According to the joint statement issued on Sunday by the conveners, Aisha Yesufu, Anthony Ehilebo, Ariyo Atoye and Mukhtar Dan’Iyan, the protest which is scheduled for 9am, is expected to start at the Unity Fountain, Maitama, Abuja.
The statement which proposes to protest against the bill sponsored by the Deputy Senate Leader reads;
“Following the media reports that a bill by the Senate on Frivolous Petitions had passed second reading and was subsequently passed to the relevant committee for consideration and to report back to the house within three weeks, it has become pertinent to call on all well-meaning Nigerians to join in a Protest Rally on Tuesday 8th of December 2015 at 9am prompt at the Unity Fountain, Maitama Abuja, to call on the National Assembly and in particular the Senate to immediately discontinue with the said Bill proposed by Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah from Kebbi State.”
“The controversial Bill, however, proposes up to four years in prison or between N2 million and N4 million fine for “anyone who intentionally propagates false information that could threaten the security of the country or that is capable of inciting the general public against the government through electronic message.
“The controversial Bill, also proposes up to two years in prison or N2million and N4million fine or both for anyone disseminating via text message, Twitter, WhatsApp, or any other form of social media an ‘abusive statement.
“This also involves messages intending to “set the public against any person and group of persons, an institution of government or such other bodies established by law.”
The statement added, “The issue of concern is therefore, the suspicious secrecy and shrouded nature of this Bill. The direct conflict of this Bill with Section 39 Sub 1 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as Amended in 2011 which states, that “Every Person shall be entitled to Freedom of Expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”
“It is also noteworthy that there has been a spirited effort to justify this repressive and unconstitutional action of the Senate but this does not suffice in line with the commitment with which we have seen the senate and its senators from both parties actively arguing positively for the necessity of such a bill.
“Who are they afraid of? We urge concerned Nigerians to join us as we protest and say a Capital #NoToSocialMediaBill#. No to undue planned interruption of the exercise of our fundamental right to freedom of expression without interference as guaranteed by Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”