The Salvage Group (TSG) on Monday joined millions of Nigerians to condemn the anti-social media bill sponsored by Senators Ibn Na’Allah, Bukola Saraki, and Dino Melaye.
The group said the bill is usurpation of power by a few of “misguided senators” who are ignorant of what freedom of speech means in a representative democracy.
Peter Ajayi, National Coordinator of the group said that the bill has fueled emotionally charged debate about the secrecy of corrupt politicians and the people’s right to know.
Shutting down the internet according to Mr. Ajayi, is a serious attack on freedom of expression. Adding that Nigerians have the fundamental right to print and disseminate political information and voice their opinions about it.
He stressed that throughout the world, values are codified into laws of many countries and are included in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
He said, “We believe the bill is repressive, coercive, and a weapon of control and surveillance to gag, muzzle, and restrict the freedom of speech enshrined in our Constitution. The bill is an act of betrayal and dishonesty on the part of the sponsors especially coming from APC senators of the ruling party. At no point in a modern society should Nigerians be made to feel that a better future is impossible, neither should anyone especially elected representatives of the people define the democratic choice Nigerians make.
“The bill would limit the freedom of speech, the press, and expression which are detrimental to society. By preventing free access to information, the sponsors are fostering ignorance in its citizens. Through this ignorance, citizens are more easily controlled by special interest groups led by corrupt politicians to hide and maintain their corrupt practices. We believe we the people should control the government instead of the government controlling its people.
“The bill will have the power to invent any penalty, including jail term, for any digital transgression the sponsors deem Nigerians to be guilty of. It would allow unaccountable corrupt politicians to arbitrarily hide information from the public.
“The bill plans to carry out an unprecedented extension of state powers by claiming the authority to monitor, restrict, or abolish completely all emails, Facebook, WhatsApp, and other internet activities nationwide. The attack on free internet exposes the intentions of the sponsors to restrict the flow of ideas, creativity in the market place of ideas, and scrap the last vestige of independent information.
“To govern effectively and legitimately, elected representatives of the people need the trust of the people and vice versa. The bill is aimed at undermining the transparency of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The bill is a distrust for democratic principles and process that fosters hostility to competing voices of opinions and dissent.
“We are glad that the bill is DOA – Dead On Arrival – at the President’s desk. President Muhammadu Buhari has made known his opposition to the bill by saying that he’ll not sign any bill into law that violates the freedom of speech as stipulated in our Constitution.
“Given the afore mentioned negative impact the bill would have on free speech, Salvage for Development Initiative joins other well-meaning Nigerians to say NO to the obnoxious bill co-sponsored by Senators Ibn Na’Allah, Bukola Saraki, and Dino Melaye.”