THE Senate will not stand down the Hate-Speech bill and the Social Media bill in spite of mounting opposition against them.
Lawmakers would have the opportunity of the public hearing to express their reservations.
They promised that the interest of Nigerians will be taken into consideration in passing the bills.
On Wednesday, a group of protesters at the National Assembly told the ninth Senate to “shut down” the “obnoxious bills”.
Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), elder statesman Chief Afe Babalola and John Cardinal Onaiyekan also took hard position against the bills.
The regulation of social media bill titled: “A Bill for an Act to make provisions for the protection from internet falsehood and manipulations and for related matters, 2019,” sponsored by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa (Niger East), has scaled second reading in Senate.
The anti-hate-speech bill titled: “National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches (Establishment, etc) Bill, 2019”, sponsored by Senate Deputy Chief Whip Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, initially listed death by hanging for offenders.
But the senator has said that the clause would be expunged before further consideration of the bill.
Two senators – Uba Sani and Oseni Yakubu – addressed the Coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) protesters on behalf of Senate President Ahmed Lawan.
They assured that bills would not be passed should they be rejected by Nigerians at the public hearing.
Sani (Kaduna Central) 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 in the country.
“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 ninth 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 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.”
Yakubu (Kogi Central) said: “I want to assure you that the Ninth Senate is not in any way an appendage of the executive.
“No single bill will pass without public hearing. We are here to make laws for Nigerians not the Senate. We are all here to protect the interests of Nigerians.”
The protesters, numbering about 50, also called for the release of #RevolutionNow convener Omoyele Sowore, Agba Jalingo and others being held by security agencies after being granted bail.
They carried placards bearing various inscriptions such as: “Only a repressive regime muscles the media; “Say no to hate speech and social media bills.”
One of the conveners, Deji Adeyanju, described the bills as “obnoxious”. He said the bill have no place in a democracy.
Adeyanju said: “We condemn it. These bills have no place in our laws and nation because the Cybercrime Act of 2015 has already aptly captured the provisions of these bills in its entirety.
“We want to draw the attention of the National Assembly to the provision of Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act of 2015.
“That Section of the Act has expressly captures all the provisions that the Social Media and Hate Speech Bills ought to cover. We ask that these two obnoxious bills be shut down by the 9th Senate.”
Adeyanju added: “We are at a time where fear, the love for personal safety has taken the place of patriotism and duty to country. We are gathered here because we want to stand for our country at this trying time.
“We know and look as if we have been overpowered and outnumbered by the government that should be at the mercy of the people and by a legislature that should aggregate the interest of the common man.
He insisted that National Assembly, especially the Senate, “has become notorious for joining forces with the executive arm of government to oppress Nigerians.”
Another co-convener, Henry Shield, told reporters that the objective of the protest was to express the group’s displeasure and its rejection of the two controversial bills.