The National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, has condemned in totality, the “unusual rapid readings and debate” of a bill by the Nigerian Senate, which seeks to criminalize certain aspects of media practice, especially the social media.
The umbrella body of Nigerian students in higher institutions of learning, expressed outrage that in a country where there are pending volatile issues turning the nation down that needs urgent attention, members of the Senate chose to focus their attention on gagging the media.
The association was reacting to a bill entitled: “An Act to prohibit frivolous petitions and other matters connected therewith”, sponsored by Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah (APC/Kebbi South), which passed second reading on Wednesday.
Among others, the bill recommends jail terms ranging from a mandatory six months to up to two years or fines of between N200,000 and N4 million for petitions written or published through “any medium of whatever description” against public or private individuals without accompanying it with sworn affidavit in a Federal or State High Court.
The NANS Vice President (External), Comrade Ogunkuade Oluwatosin, in a statement on Thursday, said for the Senate to have allowed the bill, which infringe on the right and freedom of information of Nigerian masses, to scale second reading and subsequent referral to the Committee on Ethics and Privilege, the Red Chamber has exposed itself to an unpardonable ridicule that they are not representing their people but themselves.
Comrade Oluwatosin wondered how the senators, who reside mostly in the nation’s capital, would source for information and gather opinions to provide solution on national issues from all nooks and crannies of the country, if not through social media facts and fallacy.
“It is also noteworthy to state that NANS considers the Nigeria senate threat on social media users as a fraudulent attempt to subvert Nigeria’s democracy and freedom of expressions in any form. They wish to deny the masses of access to information which is a prerequisite for transparency and accountability of governments, security awareness and as safeguarding citizens against mismanagement, crimes and corruption.
“Social media, a fastest means of interaction, remains the last hope of the less privilege in communicating their ideas, needs and grievances to most of our leaders that are not accessible. Also, Nigerian students concern as the bedrock of this nation’s development and highest rated user of social media, emanated from the fact that most of our distinguished senators cannot rid their camps of social media propaganda as it’s the source of their political popularity, yet they feel so eager to suggest two (2) years jail term or N4m fine for social media users who passes information which they as law makers may term as false”, he said.
The NANS vice president said as the nation battles security challenges and many more, where lies the hope and aspiration of the Nigerian people when their lawmakers are yet to pass a bill prescribing increase in years of jail term of corrupt people who siphoned the nation’s fund with a corresponding increase in the amount of money embezzled.
“We know that the law is like cobweb, too strong to catch the weak but too weak to catch the strong, therefore NANS uses this medium to appeal to all distinguish senators of Federal Republic of Nigeria to please place our collective national interest above their self-interest in making decisions to govern this country”.
The statement warned that should the Senate pass the bill on jailing social media users, then it should be prepared to face the wrath of the Nigerian students through maximum protest to the National Assembly.