PDP caucus vows showdown over Social Media Bill
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the Senate has vowed to vehemently oppose any proposed legislation by the Ninth National Assembly that would unduly infringe on the rights of Nigerians.
Minority Leader of the Senate, Enyinnaya Abaribe, who gave this indication while reacting to concerns on the Social Media Bill raised by members of Leadership and Accountability Initiative, who visited him at the National Assembly, said the right thing will be done.
Abaribe said that the opposition Senators would oppose the Bill if it threatens the fundamental rights of Nigerians guaranteed in Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
It would be recalled that the Senate last week introduced and read for the first time a Bill titled: “Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019” now popularly referred to as anti-Social Media Bill.
The Bill proposed a three-year jail term with an option of fine of N150, 000 or both for anyone found to have abused the social media.
Abaribe noted that there are already laws that deal with the issues the proposed law seeks to regulate.
He urged Nigerians to ensure mutual respect while freely 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 guise.
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 price 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 rigours 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.”
Leader of the group, Nwaruruahu Shield, insisted that since there were already existing laws dealing with Defamation, is superfluous to introduce a fresh anti-social media Bill.
Shield said: “It is imperative to note that there is an already existing provisions in the Nigeria Constitution which defines, 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 Act 2015, and other existing laws, it has become obvious that what the sponsor(s) (covertly and overtly) of this Bill seek (s) to do is to gag the social media and dictate to us what we can say and what not.”