CHSR Cautions NASS Against Alleged Move to Criminalise Protests
The Centre for Human and Social-economic Rights (CHSR) has cautioned the National Assembly against the alleged move to criminalise protests.
The National President, CHSR, Mr Alex Omotehinse, gave the caution at a news conference on Tuesday in Lagos.
Omotehinse said that activists rejected the bill sponsored by Emeka Martins of the House of Representatives(PDP-Imo), prescribing a five-year jail term for unlawful protesters in Nigeria.
He said that the bill had been passed for the second reading by the lower chambers of the national assembly.
Omotehinse said that CHSR, as an NGO was registered to defend, sustain and promote the fundamental human and socio-economic rights of citizens and residents in any part of Nigeria as guaranteed by the constitution.
The activist said: “National Assembly should stop further deliberation forthwith on the obnoxious bill to criminalise right to protest.
“National Assembly should henceforth abandon the route of undemocratic legislation which undermines the rights of Nigerians.
“The National Assembly should demand greater sense of responsibility and due diligence from the security agencies; particularly the police which must be held to account for the protection of public property during protests.
“The hallowed chamber should prioritise issues of security, electricity, education health, corruption, empowerment and fight against poverty etc which are the critical challenge Nigerians are facing at the moment.”
Omotehinse said that the right to peaceful protests is the common indicator of expression of freedom of expression under democracy.
He said: “Right to peaceful protest is guarantee under the Nigerian Constitution and as well as regional and international convention to which Nigeria is signatory.
“Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) guarantees the right of every person to freely assemble and associate with other persons in exercise of freedom of expression.”
According to him, throughout history, protests have been the driving force behind the most powerful social movements against injustice and institutional abuses as well as for demanding transparency and accountability from government.
“Citizens across the globe organise around issues of mutual interest and deploy peaceful protests to speak truth to power; thereby inspiring people for a hope in a better future,” he added.
Omotehinse said that the struggle for democracy in Nigeria was won largely on account of the expression of the right of citizens to protest under successive military regimes.
He said that even at the grave risks of physical harm and mental exhaustion under military rule, Nigerians remained unwavering and unbowed in the face of dictatorial tendencies of fascists who sought to deny the right to peaceful protest with the aid of draconian decrees.
“Those elected into various political offices in Nigeria today are direct beneficiaries of the product of the pains and anguish that became the price paid by those who championed the cause of democracy through peaceful protests.
“The last two decades under democracy has witnessed deliberate but futile attempts by enemies of democracy in position of authorities to undermine the right to peaceful protest through the abuse of state power or undemocratic legislation,” he added.
Omotehinse said that the latest attempt to criminalise protest by the national assembly was indeed a reflection of the depth to which anti-democratic forces are perfecting the coup to return Nigeria to the era of dictatorship.
He said that with the huge controversies trailing the conduct of 2023 presidential election, the resurgence of the bill to criminalise protest was no doubt an indication of the desperation to curtail freedom of expression.
He said that the bill was also to curtail rights to demand just, accountable and transparent governance by organised platforms of civil society and by extension the generality of the citizenry.
Omotehinse said that the bill amongst other “obnoxious provisions” seeks to amend the Criminal Code Act, Cap 38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
He said that the amendment supposedly meant to preserve the sanctity of human life and property, and to provide specifically for the crime of mob action, prescribe punishment and other matters.
“CHSR views the provisions of the bill as deliberate attempt to criminalize peaceful protests and cow Nigerians into further submission under the guise of protecting public property.
“We view strongly that the right to peaceful protests which is guarantee by the Constitution has been subjected to grievous attacks by this vexatious bill and must therefore be vehemently rejected by Nigerians.
“CHSR believes that the bill is borne out of the desire to cow Nigerians into submission by those who detest resolve by Nigerians to organise around issues of interest and demand for genuine change through peaceful protests,” he said.
He said that the bill was to suppress protests and silence critical voices in the society.
According to him, the bill portends danger to democracy and therefore deemed retrogressive and reprehensible by all genuine platforms of Nigeria civil society.
Omotehinse said: “It is imperative to assert that the right to peaceful protest intersects with citizens desire to be freed from all forms of oppression including deprivation and marginalisation.
“Democracy guarantees that everyone should be free to protest and without any form of inhibition or codified threats by way of ambiguous legislation.
“Nigerians must be allowed to exercise their right to peaceful protests as enshrined in the constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, African Charter on Human and Peoples Right as well as Universal Declaration on Human Rights.” (NAN)
Senate Approves N6.7bn as Refund for Kebbi for Road Repairs
The Senate has approved payment of N6.7 billion to Kebbi Government as refund for repairs carried out on Federal Government roads in the state.
This followed the adoption of the report of Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts at Thursday’s plenary.
The report was on “Promissory note and bond issuance as refund to Kebbi State government for projects executed on behalf of the federal government.”
The Chairman of the Committee, Sen.Clifford Ordia while presenting the report, said that the committee recommended N6.706 billion as
promissory note and bond issuance.
He said that the amount was to settle outstanding claims and liabilities of Kebbi government.
Ordia said that the Senate had on Sept. 21, 2022 considered the report of the President on the “Establishment of a Promissory Note Programme and a Bond Issuance” as refund to Kebbi and Yobe states.
“It was for projects executed on behalf of the federal government.
“The report was referred to the committee for further legislative action,” he said.
Ordia said that promissory note programme and bond issuance was a financial instrument to clear federal government’s debt to other governmental and non-governmental bodies in various sectors of the economy.
“Specifically, this promissory note and bond issuance is designed to make refunds to three state governments for projects executed on behalf of the federal government in the aforementioned states.
“The communication has contained a request for approval of N18.6 billion for Yobe Government, N2.47 billion for Taraba Government and N6.7 billion for Kebbi State Government.
“It will be recalled that the committee noted that it would resume the consideration of the outstanding request in respect of Kebbi as soon as possible.
“Subsequently, on Nov. 23, 2022, the Senate considered the committee’s report on the promissory note programme for Taraba and Yobe for projects executed on behalf of the federal government.
“The upper chamber then mandated the committee to re-invite Kebbi government to defend its claim before the committee within two weeks,” Ordia said.
He said that the committee found out that Kebbi government completed all the projects for which it sought for refund.
They findings he said are:
“That the roads were constructed in line with the contract specifications and can stand the test of time.
“That the projects were executed between 2006 and 2012 and are federal roads.
“That series of inspection visits were carried out by the Ministry of Works and Housing on the federal roads completed in the state and it ascertained that the level of work had met required standard.
“That the state government had paid all the contractors that executed the projects.
“That the promised amount due for reimbursement to Kebbi State Government and reviewed by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) is N6,706,835,495.12 for the execution of federal roads.
“That BPP had attained and classified that due process was followed accordingly.”
Meanwhile, the 9th Senate had adjourned until Saturday for valedictory session. (NAN)
Senate Defers Valedictory Session to Saturday
Trailed by unresolved wrangling over the election of its principal officers in the 10th assembly, the Senate yesterday postponed its earlier announced valedictory session.
The Green Chamber is yet to agree on who occupies what position in the incoming Senate principal officers’ election, following the All Progressives Congress (APC) to allocate the positions to the six geo-political zones of the country.
The APC National Working Committee (NWC) had zoned the Senate Presidency of the forthcoming 10th National Assembly to the South-South; and the Speakership of the House of Representatives to the North-West.The party also zoned the Deputy Senate Presidency to the North-West, and Deputy Speakership to the South-East.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, announced yesterday that the Senate has rescheduled its valedictory session to Saturday.
On the other hand, the House Representatives yesterday held its Valedictory Session.
Lawan had announced on Tuesday that the Upper Chamber would hold its valedictory session on Thursday.
The Senate President told members of the Senate Press Corps that the shift in the date was due to a scheduled meeting of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu with the lawmakers of the incoming 10th National Assembly on Thursday.
The Senate held plenary on Tuesday as well as yesterday.
“By the grace of God, we will still hold plenary today and then our valedictory session will be on Saturday.
“It is because tomorrow, Mr President, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will be meeting with the Senators-elect and members-elect at 2pm.
“And we believe that a session as significant, important, historical and memorable as valedictory session of the Senate requires a whole day. Not one, two, three hours. And therefore we pushed it to Saturday,” Lawan said.
The Ninth Senate officially ends its four-year tenure on 11th June, 2023.
Lawan hinted that the 10th Senate would be inaugurated on Tuesday, 13th June, 2023.
Memories, Emotions as Reps Dissolve 9th Assembly
By Eze Okechukwu & Ubong Ukpong, Abuja
Memories and emotions went high yesterday during the valedictory session of the House of Representatives, as Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila officially dissolved the 9th assembly.
Rep. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, the Majority Leader of the House, had moved a motion to commence the valedictory session, while Rep Ndudi Elumelu, the Minority Leader seconded the motion.
Gbajabiamila, in his valedictory speech, said: “I will miss all of you and miss this house, you have enriched my life and I cannot express how much you have impacted the house.
In an emotion laden speech, Gbajabiamila said the joint efforts in nation building by members were to ensure that the dreams of the nation’s founding fathers did not die.
“We have come, we have seen and while we are yet to conquer, my enthusiasm to serve remained undiminished,” he said.
According to him, it has been the honour of his life to serve the people of the country.
“I thank my constituency and I express gratitude to my colleagues for the privilege to serve.”
He said since he assumed office, the house had changed drastically in such a manner he had not witnessed, adding that the change came with speed as witnessed in the last four years.
He said the 9th House of Reps had governed well with some interventions, including COVID-19 pandemic, Police Reform Bill, Electoral Acts Amendment Bill, Constitutional Review, among others.
“We have worked to take advantage of social and economic transformation that benefit us; we have left our mark on every sectors of our national life,” he said.
He said the House was able to introduce discipline on the Appropriation Act that now commenced from January to December of every year.
According to him, the 9th House of Reps has ended and the 10th will commence.
“I urge you to ensure that you are not found wanting by man or God in the final judgment.”
Also, Rep. Julius Ihovhre (APC-Edo), said he would forever cherish the friendship he made in the 9th assembly, adding that such relationship would last forever.
He commended the speaker for leading the house well and perfectly and demonstrated that he could manage a diverse group of people.
“In your new roles as the Chief of Staff to the President, the challenges you will face are more than here, we plead with you not to abandon the spirit of excellence,” he said.
He said Nigeria required the kind of leader with a sense of mission, while urging Gbajabiamila to ensure the Federal Government paid attention to basic education.
Rep. Luke Onofiong (PDP-Akwa-Ibom) said members had made relationships that would last forever and commended his constituency for giving him the privilege to serve.
He commended the speaker for accommodating members and relaxing the rules to give new members a voice, noting that the speaker was gentle enough to accommodate their errors.
He urged the house to take the judiciary seriously with salary review.
Rep. Yusuf Gadgi (APC-Plateau) on his part said, “In my constituency, Muslims are 30 per cent while Christians constitute 70 per cent but they have always sent me here and for using me as a good example of how Nigeria should behave.
“What I want to say is the message of forgiveness, I want, on your behalf and other members, to forgive one another. In this assignment, we must have offended one another.
His comment on forgiveness generated some uproar, as members grumbled endlessly.
Unperturbed, Gagdi said “irrespective of the grumbling, what is right is right and people must learn to forgive others”.
Rep. Aisha Duku (APC-Borno) expressed gratitude for the opportunity to serve as the first woman to represent her constituency.
“Mr Speaker you have blessed me to bless others, I have changed the perspective of politics in my area because this is the first time that a Fulani woman and a Muslim will come out from that area.
“I have been able to enlighten people and bring out the women to vote, which hitherto they had not.
“I have participated in Bills assented to by the president and today they are laws, I commend my committee as the Chairman, House Committee on INEC, for supporting me.
Duku said she was now a better Nigerian, as she traveled to a lot of places in the country but her only regret was that no gender bill was passed.
In attendance at the session of the 9th assembly were former speakers, House Leader such as Gali Na’abba, Patricia Etteh, Mulikat Akande and some former clerks of NASS.
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