The Freedom of Information Coalition in Nigeria (FOICN) says it plans a one million (100,000,000)-man march across the country against the proposed bill to gag social media in Nigeria, describing it as draconian and anti-masses.
Chairman, Board of Governors of the Coalition, Walter Duru, who disclosed this while addressing newsmen in Calabar, weekend further described the move as irresponsible and aimed at consolidating dictatorship in Nigeria, calling on all Nigerians to resist it.
“Nigeria is gradually drifting to dictatorship. The proposed bill is not only irresponsible, but geared towards taking the country back to the dark days. It contradicts the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, as well as the Freedom of Information Act, 2011. The bill simply shows that some members of the National Assembly are self-serving in their endeavours and exposes the bad intentions of the sponsor(s). The guilty are afraid. It is either that those behind the bill have committed one atrocity and are afraid that it might be blown open soon, or they plan to secure this draconian law as a cover for a planned evil. They plan to turn this country to a banana republic. This will not work.”
Continuing, Duru disclosed that nationwide mobilization is ongoing to shut down the country in the coming days, in protest against the unpopular bill, even as he urged the National Assembly leadership to withdraw the bill in the interest of the nation.
“We are mobilizing Nigerians across the country against this draconian bill. The oil subsidy protest will be a child’s play, compared to what will happen. Beginning from next week, the 8th National Assembly will realize that they are representatives of the people and not mere self-serving individuals. Whoever that does not want to be discussed in public should stay away from public offices. This shows how insensitive our leaders are. Nigerians are hungry and the economy is going down by the day, as a result of poor leadership. How does this bill put food on the table of Nigerians? The focus now should be on legislations and steps that will improve the socio-economic well-being of the people; enhance security and check corruption and not this evil ploy. We have sufficient laws that regulate media practice. This bill is simply evil,” he fumed.
He further warned that the FOI Coalition will stop at nothing in stopping the bill.
Duru, who is also Executive Director, Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption-MIIVOC, however urged the Kebbi-South constituents of the lawmaker and sponsor of the bill, Senator Ibn Na’Allah to commence the process of his recall in the interest of the country’s democracy, describing him as a National embarrassment.
It would be recalled that a bill seeking a two-year jail term for any person who makes allegations or publishes any statement or petition in the newspaper, radio or medium of whatsoever description against another person, institutions of government or any public office holder, passed second reading in the Senate last week.
The bill also prescribed that anyone or group of persons who send any false text message or post false message on the social media against another person shall be jailed for two years upon conviction by the law court.
The bill tagged “A bill for an Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and other matters connected therewith,” sponsored by Senator Ibn Na’Allah, APC, Kebbi South, compels petitioners to accompany petitions with sworn court affidavit, failure of which attracts a six-month imprisonment, upon conviction.
On the social media, the bill reads: “Where any person through text message, tweets, WhatsApp or through any social media post any abusive statement with intent to set the public against any person or group of persons, an institution of government or such other bodies established by law shall be guilty of an offense and upon conviction, shall be liable to an imprisonment for two years or a fine of N2,000,000.00 or both fine and imprisonment.”
The bill said it shall be an offence for any petition to be submitted without a sworn affidavit from the law court.
It has generated public outcry since its introduction.
Omolara Adegoke- Abuja
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