December 10 every year is marked as Human Rights Day. It is a day that reminds everyone around us of the need for equality for everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or social status. The Day, we also note, is a reminder that certain freedoms including the right to the freedom of association on the one hand and that of free speech must be respected by all humans including those living with certain disabilities, if in reciprocation, theirs must be so treated.
In the same vein, lawmakers of the ilk of Senators, in our view, must be so grounded in the foregoing that they should realise that there was really no need for the Senator Ibn N’Allah’s Social Media Bill that has continued to receive several knocks from a broad spectrum of the polity. We consider it and its intention a monumental embarrassment.
From available information, the controversial Bill which was impliedly introduced through the back door of the Senate, has passed the first reading and is allegedly almost coasting through the second reading in the Senate. But the people are not giving up on their opposition against it and whatever good (evil?) it stands for. The global tweeter outcry under the hashtag #NoToSocialMediaBill is on and it is catching on very fast.
With the title: “Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Related Matters” the bill sponsored by Senator Ibn Na’Allah, (APC Kebbi), and supported by Dino Melaye, (APC Kogi), proposes up to seven years in prison or $25,000 fine for “anyone who intentionally propagates false information that is capable of inciting the general public against the government through electronic message.” Also, anyone disseminating an “abusive statement” intending to “set the public against any person and group of persons, an institution of government or such other bodies established by law” via text message, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, or any other social media faces two years in prison or $10,000 fine or both. Curiously, the bill does not define “abusive statement or messages.”
Except perhaps the sponsor and supporters of the Bill have some selfish interests that passing the piece of law would bring to them, we hold that the best place for it should be the trash bin in the Senate President’s office. In our view, that Bill was ill-conceived and designed not only to muscle the people’s freedom of expression, but to coerce Nigerians into the “hear nothing, see nothing and say nothing” scenario no matter how debilitating happenings around can be.
On this note, we hail the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright who on the occasion of today’s Human Rights Day, commits to work with the Nigerian Government to promote human rights for all including those living with disabilities.
In all these, the envoy recognises the sanctity of human rights even of those with disabilities. But do our Senators do? And does today’s Human Rights Day mean anything to the lawmakers? We fear not. Which is why we call on well meaning Nigerians and lovers of this tottering democracy to rally against N’Allah’s Bill as it does not mean well for Nigeria, Nigerians and all that live inside the big black nation.


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