Senate President Ahmad Lawan on Monday said the Senate would not pass the hate speech and social media bills proposed by the National Assembly if they are overwhelmingly rejected by Nigerians.
Lawan, speaking during a luncheon and media briefing with newsmen in Abuja, assured that a public hearing on the bills would be conducted to allow Nigerians present their perspectives and submit their inputs on the bills.
But public affairs analysts who spoke to BusinessDay on the matter said the Senate’s stance is an indication that the two bills may die a natural death.
“Most Nigerians see the two bills as a drift towards authoritarianism and an attempt to muzzle free speech,” said a public affairs commentator who does not want his name in print. “If the opinion of Nigerians will truly determine whether the bills are passed or not, then the bills are as good as dead.”
The bills, especially the hate speech bill, have generated a lot of controversy since they were presented, with many Nigerians saying the bills are targeted at infringing right of freedom of speech of the citizenry.
Lawan, however, said the 9th Senate holds the interest of Nigerians supreme and would not in any way do anything that could derail or undermine that interest.
“The hate speech bill to me has enlarged democracy in Nigeria. Nigerians of all persuasions have one thing to say and this is what democracy is all about,” Lawan said.
“The hate speech bill is not going to be passed without a deserving public hearing so that Nigerians will have opportunity to be there with their arguments, whether we accept it or we don’t want it. But I want to assure you that the preponderance of opinions of Nigerians will determine the way hate speech bill goes and of course any other bill in the National Assembly,” he said.
Revealing that Buhari has submitted to Senate the details of the N29.9 billion loan request, Lawan said the request would only be approved if the money is tied to critical projects that would impact positively on lives of Nigerians.
“Yes, if you don’t have money and you have projects that after you do them, they will not only provide the infrastructure; one thing critical is that every cent borrowed must be tied to a project and these are projects that should have positive effects on Nigerians,” Lawan stated.
“And we will make our oversight so as to make sure that such funds are economically, prudently and transparently applied on such projects,” he said.
He said the letter conveying the loan request came with all details.
“In 2016, there were no sufficient details and this time, I think the executive have learnt their lessons,” he said.
Lawan said the 9th NASS is committed to providing support and guidance for the development agenda of government.
This commitment, he said, is being pursued through quality legislation and prompt consideration of public petitions and requests from the President for confirmation of appointments into important offices.
Lawan said the 9th Senate has been very active since its inauguration in June 2019.
“Our primary responsibility is lawmaking. In this respect, the Ninth Senate has been up and doing and its record compares favourably to any other before it in the history of our nation,” he said.
“Within the first six months of its inauguration, the Ninth Senate has passed six bills into law, four of them members’ bills. The first of these bills is the Deep Off-shore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act CAP D3 LFN 2004 (Amendment Bill), 2019,” he said.
Solomon Ayado, Abuja