President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, distanced himself from the proposed Social Media Bill currently being debated in the Senate seeking to restrict Nigerians from “criticizing” political and public office holders.
This is just as the United Nations is considering the petition filed by rights group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), against the bill
The President speaking through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, stated that the principle of the bill was inconsistent with democratic ideals of free speech enshrined in the constitution of the land.
He added that he had sworn to protect and uphold the dictates of the constitution and would not in anyway go against it.
President Buhari, however, stated that he was “not averse to lawful regulation, so long as that is done within the ambit of the constitution” which he swore to uphold, noting that free speech was central to democratic societies anywhere in the world.
“The President won’t assent to any legislation that may be inconsistent with the constitution of Nigeria,” he said.
He further explained that without free speech, elected representatives won’t be able to gauge public feelings and moods about governance issues.
“As a key component of democratic principles are so emotionally attached to free speech that they would defend it with all their might,” he said.
Shehu explained that President Buhari was fully aware of the public reservations about the proposed legislation but assured that there was no cause for alarm “because the Senate is a democratic Senate.
The bill, however, has passed second reading in the Senate.