The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has asked the national assembly to discard the social media and hate speech bills. The association asked the legislature to devote its time to solving issues on poverty, insecurity, bad roads and poor education.
Samson Ayokunle, CAN president, made the call in a statement by Samuel Kwamkur, the national director, legal and public affairs of the association, in Abuja, on Thursday.
The protection from internet falsehood and manipulation bill and the national commission for the prohibition of hate speeches bill were recently introduced in the senate and have since passed second reading.
Some Nigerians have protested against the bills, saying their introduction is a plot to clamp down on free speech and public criticism. Stakeholders in the media, academia and civil society groups have also described the proposed legislation as a step towards impunity.
Ayokunle said the bills have generated fear among Nigerians, and that it will be of no good if they are passed into law.
“These two bills have generated so many misgivings and criticisms that they have led to uncommon tension and fears among Nigeria’s Citizens. This is doing no good to the fears and apprehension of the citizens already on ground as a result of insecurity, deplorable infrastructural amenities and the general welfare of the people,” he said.
“Having looked at all sides to the debate, CAN is calling on the National Assembly, particularly the President of the Senate and all distinguished Senators to discountenance the two bills and put off completely any contemplation to pass them into Acts of the National Assembly as sincere lovers of the nation.
“The bills, in the general view of the majority of Nigerians, and in ours too, appear to separately seek to gag Nigeria’s citizens from speaking out freely, but responsibly on matters that affect their lives in all spheres. This, to us, is an ill wind that will blow nobody any good.” Ayokunle said existing laws are strong enough to deal with cases of hate speech.
“The Penal Code, Criminal Code, Cyber Crime Act and other legal provisions on crimes that deal with hate speeches, defamation, libel and similar offences are clear and strong enough,” he said.
“In this wise, we desire that governments at all levels and indeed members of the National Assembly pay greater attention to the issues of insecurity, economic hardship, poverty, bad roads, poor education and the dearth of infrastructure.
“We, therefore, call on our governments to respect the sanctity of the Nigerian Constitution and other extant laws and provide for all Nigerians a better nation to live in.” Cable