Early on Wednesday morning in Abuja, hundreds of protesters marched on the National Assembly to demand the withdrawal of social media and hate speech bills.
Although security men barred the protesters from entering the premises of the National Assembly, they took over the main entrance of the complex.
The main entrance to the national assembly complex was locked up as protesters continued their rally.
Speaking with The Guardian, the coordinator of the group, Adebayo Raphael, said the main demand of the group was to entreat the Nigerian Senate to withdraw the Social Media Bill and Hate Speech Bill.
According to Raphael, the action of the group was due to the overwhelming rejection of the bill by Nigerians during its public hearing, describing the bill as “undemocratic”.
Raphael said: “Due to the overwhelming rejection of the ‘Protection from Internet Falsehoods and Manipulation and Other Related Matters Bill, 2019,’ also known as the Social Media Bill, during the Public Hearing which held on the said Bill more than four months ago, specifically on March 9, 2020; the Centre for Advancement of Civil Liberties and Development, also known as the Centre for Liberty wishes to further remind and entreat the Senate to abide by the noble wish of the Nigerian people and kill this bill without further delay.
“It must be stated that the Parliament exists at the pleasure of the people. According to Section 14 (2a) of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended): “Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this constitution derives all its power and authority.
“The people of Nigeria had overwhelmingly rejected and still do overwhelmingly reject this bill, of which retaining it in the record of the Senate with the hope of oxygenating it, will amount to an aberration and a disservice to the people of Nigeria”
Raphael urged the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmed Lawan, the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, and all members of the 9th Senate to immediately commit to the verdict of Nigerians and kill this bill forthwith.”
According to the coordinator, there has been no known public support for the Hate Speech Bill, formally christened ‘National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches (Est, etc) Bill, 2019.
He noted that Nigerians have been unequivocal in demanding the internment of the bill.
“The Hate Speech Bill, we believe, should not be given further legislative deliberation – not only because it proposes death sentence for defaulters but also because it has no premise for existence in a democratic society like ours,” Raphael said.
“We believe that the two aforementioned Bills do not in any way provide solutions to the problems they ought to address, rather they seek to further throw the country into chaos and confusion by arrogating authority in ways that are dangerous to democracy, free speech and digital freedom in a democratic society.
“We equally believe that distinguished senators must try to remember the constancy of tomorrow – the fact that these bills are unlikely to protect their rights as ordinary citizens, should they leave their current position as senators tomorrow.
“It is, therefore, crucial to note that it has now become morally incumbent on distinguished senators to speedily send these bills to the grave. It is the duty of the parliament not to robe the executive and allied political forces with excessive and Draconian powers, but to protect democracy and safeguard the constitution.
“Nigerians have spoken. The 9th Senate must abide by the verdict of the people.”
Also speaking, the convener of Concerned Nigerians group, Deji Adeyanju, who urged the Senate to focus on pressing legislation, said “There are issues of electoral act pending before the assembly, issue of freedom of speech, I believe these are the Integra components of democracy.
“The Senate should key the bill whether it is freedom before or after, Nigerians have overwhelmingly condemned the bill.”