The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called on Nigerians to unite against moves to pass the anti-social media bill before the National Assembly.
The Senate is holding a public hearing on the bill from Monday, amidst outrage by Nigerians.
The bill, titled Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill, 2019, passed second reading in the Senate last November.
Its sponsor, Sani Musa (APC, Niger), said it aims to mitigate the threat of false information spread on the internet by monitoring online spaces and not to gag free speech as popularly believed among Nigerians.
However, the publicity secretary of the opposition PDP, Kola Ologbodiyan, in a statement, called on the media, organised civil society and pro-democracy groups to resist the passage of the bill.
He alleged that the bill was “being pushed by anti-democratic individuals in the Buhari Presidency, who seek to gag Nigerians, suspend our constitutional provision of free speech and foist a dictatorial system on our country.
“The PDP said it is time for Nigerians to eschew all political, sectional and religious differences and stand in unity against a bill that is clearly designed to suppress and silence the people, emasculate institutions of democracy, particularly the media, take away the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech of citizens and turn them into conquered people without a voice, in their own country.
“It is clear that this bill is part of the anti-democratic moves to further emasculate the 1999 Constitution (as amended) ostensibly as a prelude to foisting a full totalitarianism in our country, where citizens will no longer have the right to freely hold or support opinions.
“It is obvious that the reason for this bill is to suppress democratic rights and prevent Nigerians, the media, civil society groups, pro-democracy organizations, the opposition and dissenting voices from freely criticizing the atrocities, abuses, incompetence, corruption, security compromises, nepotism and general misrule that have pervaded the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
“The frenzy to pass this bill further exposes the intolerance of the Buhari-led administration as well as the desperation to cover its atrocities for which it is mortally afraid of public criticism.
“The PDP expressed worry that the Senate listed the unconstitutional and anti-people bill for second reading procedures even when Nigerians across board had reached a consensus in rejecting the bill, given its underlying fascist intendments.
“The party holds that our nation already has appropriate laws guiding the boundaries of free speech and opinion, which the authorities can enforce within the ambits of constitutional provisions, in the case of any violation,” the statement said.
Rights groups and free press advocates have also clamoured for the Senate to halt the passage of the controversial bill.
The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) urged that the bill should not be passed, suggesting alternative courses of action to tackle internet falsehood.
CDD also suggested accreditation for online content creators by government in collaboration with the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).
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