Civil society groups on Wednesday protested against the proposed Hate Speech Bill currently being debated in the Senate and also demanded the immediate release of human rights activist Omoyele Sowore, who has been in the custody of the Department of State Services despite having been granted bail by the court.
Protesters stormed the National Assembly in Abuja, Nigeria, on Wednesday (27 November) to register their opposition to a bill that its sponsor says is meant to clamp down on hate speech peddlers on the Internet.
The action tagged #SayNoToHateSpeechBill took place at the National Assembly gate, with protesters bearing placards and banners with “#SAY NO TO SOCIAL MEDIA BILL” and “#SAY NO TO HATE SPEECH BILL” boldly inscribed on them.
The Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, to set up a commission for the prohibition of hate speeches and which is sponsored by the former Senate spokesman, Senator Abdullahi Sabi, was introduced on the floor of the Senate earlier in the month.
The Bill, also known as the Social Media Bill and which has passed first reading on 12 November, passed second reading with support from a majority of members of the Senate on 20 November.
This was despite opposition to the proposed legislation by Nigerian citizens who are of the opinion that the bill seeks to fight free speech.
The Senate, however, has directed its committee on the judiciary to work on the bill and return in four weeks.
Protesters also called for the immediate release of Omoyele Sowore, who has been in detention since August, from the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS). The human rights activist is still being detained despite a court injunction granting him bail. The DSS has refused to obey the court and many rights organisations and leading legal practitioners have condemned the action of the government.