Scores of protesters made up of civil society groups and students besieged the National Assembly complex on Wednesday and asked the federal lawmakers to drop the anti-social media and the hate speech bills which are at various stages in the nation’s parliament.
The protester armed with placards containing various inscriptions, chanted, “What are we saying?, Say no to social media bill; What are we demanding? Say no to hate speech bill.”
The development led to a great discomfort for staff and visitors to the National Assembly as security personnel frisked motorists and pedestrians before they could enter through the main gate.
There was a heavy security build-up between 8:am and about 12 noon when the protesters ended the protest.
One of the leaders of the civil society group, Henry Shield, told journalists that the protest was to register their displeasure to the two bills.
Shield argued that there were laws in Nigeria which could adequately and sufficiently deal with the issues alluded to in the bills.
The protesters were addressed by Senators Oseni Yakubu and Uba Sani.
The lawmakers said they had the mandate of the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, to speak with the protesters.
Sani explained that there were stages to be followed before a bill could be passed.
He assured Nigerians that the bills would not be passed if Nigerians rejected them during the public hearings.
Sani said, “We have heard your agitation. We believe it is a very important agitation.
“Some of us in the Chamber have also been involved in the struggle for the enthronement of democracy
“The two bills in question are bills that were introduced by some of our colleagues.
“Some of us in the National Assembly, including the Senate President, would appear at the public hearing. Whatever Nigerians want is what the 9th Senate would do.
“The law is not about the 109 Senators. It is about Nigerians. Democracy is about free speech, it is about rule of law. That is why their voices are extremely important.
“That is why we believe that your agitation is valid and also in the best interest of our own county. We are going to certainly work with you on the day of the public hearing.
“I have no doubt in my mind that if Nigerians don’t want these bills, even though they are being sponsored by our colleagues, certainly it won’t escape the public hearing. I can assure you we are going to do whatever is in the best interest of our own country.
“We are aware of Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act and some of us are on the same page with these agitations.
“We are not guided by any political affiliation. We are guided by the law and concerned about the progress of our own country.
By The Punch