The National Coordinator of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Otunba Gani Adams, has given the Nigerian Senate knocks for seeking to introduce a bill aimed at criminalizing the publication of any petition or complaint against a public officer without backing it up with a sworn affidavit.
Reacting to the bill, entitled ‘An act to prohibit frivolous petitions and other matters connected therewith’, the OPC leader said such step is dangerous for the nation’s nascent democracy.
Mr. Adams, however, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari not to succumb to pressure from those he called corrupt politicians to sign the bill into law, saying the people of the country are eagerly looking forward to the president’s promise to strengthen democracy in the country.
Addressing newsmen in Lagos Thursday, the OPC boss described the bill as the same with the obnoxious military Decree 4 of 1984, saying the trend is worrisome.
According to Adams, with the introduction of the bill, the Senate is plotting a coup against the media in order to suppress freedom of expression.
He said “I see this as a coup against the media, which by extension, is a coup against the people.
It is disturbing that the same senate that got its mandate from the people is now seeking to gag them. I fear that something terrible is really wrong.
“In 1984, during the administration of General Muhammadu Buhari, the Decree 4 was introduced and journalists were jailed for doing their job of writing. It is curious that a similar bill is being planned by the senate now that Buhari is a civilian president. The media is the life wire of democracy, and any attempt to gag it spells doom for our nascent democracy”.
The OPC leader said the introduction of the Freedom of Information (FOI) act was expected to bring sanity into the system, with the belief that public officers would be wary of getting involved in any fraudulent activity, saying the introduction of the new bill may mean giving public officers a new lease of life to deep their hands into the nation’s coffers, knowing that nobody is watching them.
He said “I am not encouraging people to defame anybody. Rather, I am appealing to media practitioners in the country to do their job with every sense of responsibility and to see themselves as the pillar on which our democracy rests. I also believe that the courts is the last hope of the common man. Therefore, I will advise that instead of seeking to gag the media let anybody who feels defamed by another person approach the court for redress. I think that is a better way of strengthening our democracy”.