Government policing free speech is never a good sign. It represents a descent into anarchy, autocracy, dictatorship and all the other kinds of ideologies that have always been associated with creating bad conditions where the human rights of citizens is trampled upon without having the ability to speak up against it which makes us less human.
Recently the National Assembly of Nigeria started discussing a bill which they called Protection from Online Falsehoods & Manipulation. This bill is merely masquerading itself with the facade of a bill that would protect the rights of citizens to not be maligned intentionally online, when in fact it is a ploy by the Nigerian government to introduce a bill that will make it possible for them to legally arrest and prosecute outspoken dissenters. A real analysis of this bill shows it was plagiarized off the government of Singapore which ranks 151/180 in the World Press freedom index.
Combine this with the government's penchant for disregard of the Rule of Law and violation of court orders and we have a situation whereby citizens can be whisked away at the wish of the government for expressing their displeasure with any of its actions or policies. This is unacceptable.
The Nigerian government has always feared international backlash and to an extent, this has helped keep it at bay when it comes to issues regarding mass violations of the human rights of its citizens.
It once sponsored a smear campaign against AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL because they represented a mouth piece for those whose rights were continually trampled upon by different agencies of the government. Simply put, the government hates anyone and anything speaking up against it.
We have also recently witnessed a string of arrests of journalists and protesters including but not limited to Agba Jalingo, Omoyele Sowore, Olawole Bakare, Ibrahim Dan-Halilu, Samuel Ogundipe, Jones Abiri. Numerous unarmed protesters have been met with lethal force by the police and other security services who should protect the rights of individuals instead.
When we look at the full picture, as will be compounded by the citizens inability to express their dissatisfaction with the government if the bill is signed into law, this will create an authoritarian environment which is a danger to our basic human right as citizens of a democratic nation. A democracy well won and fought for with the blood of our heroes who died so we might have the same rights that the government is now attempting to take away.
We must all come together to reject this abhorrent bill. It is inimical to our safety and right to Freedom of Speech which is guaranteed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 Article 19 and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that "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.
Our rights to free speech is non-negotiable.