Ekiti Attorney-General slams Senate over social media bill

Saraki Senate

(L) Senate President, Bukola Saraki and other senators

Eromosele Ebhomele

(L) Senate President, Bukola Saraki and other senators
(L) Senate President, Bukola Saraki and other senators

The Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Nigeria’s Ekiti State, Mr Owoseni Ajayi, has condemned the plot by the Nigeria’s Senate to pass a bill to censor citizens’ activities on social media.

Many Nigerians and even some senators have kicked against the proposed bill, but the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and some of his supporters have vowed to go ahead with the bill in spite of criticisms.

Ajayi, on Sunday, expressed concern over the bill which was proposed by an All
Progressives Congress (APC) Senator, Bala Ibn Na’allah, saying the National Assembly must not allow itself to be used to bring back Decree 4 that was used against the press between 1984 and 1985 during which time President Muhammadu Buhari was military Head of State.

The Attorney-General also compared the law with the Sedition Law that the British colonial masters used against Nigerians who fought for the independence of Nigeria.

The Attorney-General, who wants holders of public offices to be answerable to the people at all times, added that “those of us holding public offices must be mindful of the temptation of seeing ourselves as being above the people.

“We are not God that cannot be questioned. In fact, nothing should be private about us that the
public must not know.”

In a statement issued in Ado-Ekiti, Owoseni Ajayi, who said the Ekiti State government was against the bill in its entirety, noted that “that the bill proposed by Senator Bala Ibn Na’allah is not different from Buhari’s Protection Against False Accusations Decree 4 of 1984, which was considered as the most repressive press law ever enacted in Nigeria.”

He said Nigerians were aware of the fact that the APC rode to power on the back of free press and credible electoral process that was allowed by the Peoples Democratic Government of Dr Goodluck Jonathan, adding: “the APC as a party must be ready to accommodate even more than the media attacks it gave PDP when it was in the opposition.

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“Isn’t it funny that the same media, especially the social media that the APC used against the PDP has now become an enemy that the APC led Federal Government is desperate to suppress? What are they afraid of?

“It is painful that anyone could bring such bill to the Senate, and even more painful that the bill was allowed to pass through the first reading.

“However, let those seeing the bill as a means of protecting themselves realise that they won’t be in power forever.

“They should therefore refrain themselves from acts capable of taking Nigeria back to those years of dictatorship that journalists were jailed indiscriminately and media houses shut for years.

“They should remember Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor of The Guardian newspapers.

“Most importantly, the Senate should be mindful of the fact that the offences the proposed bill seeks to criminalise already exist under Nigerian laws, including those on treason, defamation and libel.

“Lastly, let those supporting the obnoxious bill know that under a democratic government, there cannot be criminal libel or defamation.

“There can also not be a return of Decree 4 of 1984 and the Sedition Law of the Colonial days.”

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