President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated the commitment of his administration to the protection of free speech in keeping with democratic tradition.
This is contained in a statement issued in Abuja on Monday by Malam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity.
Shehu was reacting to the public hostility towards the social media bill now being debated by the Senate.
According to him, President Buhari has sworn to defend the constitution of Nigeria and will not lend his hand to anything that is inconsistent with the constitution.
“But he (Buhari) is not averse to lawful regulation, so long as that is done within the ambit of the constitution which he swore to uphold.
“The President said free speech is central to democratic societies anywhere in the world.
“The President explained that without free speech, elected representatives won’t be able to gauge public feelings and moods about governance issues
“As a key component of democratic principles, the President acknowledged that people in democratic societies are so emotionally attached to free speech that they would defend it with all their might,’’ he said.
Shehu explained that President Buhari was fully aware of public reservations about the proposed legislation but assured that “there is no cause for alarm because the Senate is a democratic senate.’’
He assured that the President would not assent to any legislation that might be inconsistent with the constitution of Nigeria.
Reacting to the President’s posture to the social media bill, Professor Edward Oparaoji, one of the Nigerians in the Diaspora advocating for Nigerian Senators who vote for the bill to be sanctions by the US government said, “This is just too little, and too late from Buhari. Buhari is side-stepping the issues and hoping to hoodwink Nigerians into going to sleep to enable this obnoxious legislature to become law in the country.”
“This issue is too important for the use of semantics by the man occupying the highest office of the land. There is no grey in this matter, it is either black or white. Do you support this bill or not, Mr. President?” he continued. “Buhari should give Nigerians a direct answer – yes or no.”
Oparaoji is regional director of the US Headquartered Diaspora Nigeria Nationals Network (DNNN) which has petitioned
the US Government over the ‘Social Media Bill’ and demanded that Senators who vote for the bill which is reminiscent of the Buhari’s infamous Decree 4 of the 80s be placed on the International No Fly list.