Following the public outcry that greeted the hate speech and anti-social media bills, the Senate President Ahmed Lawan has assured Nigerians that the National Assembly would not pass any anti-people laws.
Lawan stated this in response to a protest letter against the hate speech bill and anti-social media bill before the senate by the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).
HURIWA had written the letter to the Senate President amid the opposition that has continued to mount against the two controversial bills.
Ahmad’s reply was contained in a letter to HURIWA dated November 20, 2019, and endorsed by his Chief of Staff; Alhaji Babagana M. Aji.
The letter, which was received on December 4, 2019, and entitled “RE: Why National Assembly’s bills against free speech are unconstitutional: BY HURIWA” read:
“I write to present the compliments of the President of the Senate, His Excellency, Sen. Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, Ph.D., CON and to acknowledge receipt of your letter on the above subject wherein you asked the National Assembly to suspend ad infinitum the current attempts at introducing obnoxious legislation to curb access to social media.”
“His Excellency is appreciative of your concern towards upholding our constitution and your members’ continuous use of their talents as writers to promote, protect and project the human rights of all Nigerians. His Excellency assures you that the Senate will not pass any anti-people laws.
“While thanking you, please accept the assurances of the President of the Senate.”
HURIWA’s letter which was sent to Lawan on November 13, 2019, through the offices of the Senate President read in part:
“Freedom of expression is one of the fundamental rights provided in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). By virtue of the same and other international instruments, it is the freedom to hold opinions, receive ideas and information and impart ideas and information without interference. Social media is used in reference to the means of expression other than the mainstream media.
“Freedom of Expression in Nigeria is grounded constitutionally in Section 39 of the CFRN entrenches the right to freedom of expression in the following words:
(1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection 1 of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information ideas and opinions:
Provided that no person, other than the Government of the Federation or of a State or any other person or body authorized by the President on the fulfillment of conditions laid down by an Act of the National Assembly, shall own, establish or operate a television or wireless broadcasting a station for any purpose whatsoever.”
The Rights group said similar provisions are found in Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
Among other things, the group urged the National Assembly to stop forthwith any attempt to legislate laws that offend the Rights to Freedom of Speech.