Members of the National Assembly have been warned, that they would end up creating a Frankenstein monster at the President seat of power if they go ahead and amend the criminal code and make provision for sanctions against protests.
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, in a statement by its national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko argued that the police ought to provide security to protesters to check any infiltration from violent hoodlums.
The rights group said it is illogical for the House of Representatives to even contemplate making a law that will directly attack a Constitutionally protected human right to freedom of peaceful assembly under the mistaken and fraudulent guise of trying to check what they called illegal protests.
HURIWA was reacting to the presentation of the House of Representatives for consideration, a bill seeking to jail “unlawful protesters” in Nigeria.
Titled “An Act to amend the Criminal Code Act, Cap 38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 to further Preserve the Sanctity of Human Life and Property and to Provide Specifically for Mob Action, Prescribe Punishment and Other Matters,” the bill is sponsored by Honourable Chinedu Martins of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Imo state.
HURIWA argued that “the move to jail protesters as contemplated by the proposed legislation is undemocratic, unconstitutional and retrogressive.”
It, therefore, cautioned the Federal House of Representatives to “be wary of passing unconstitutional legislation that would install a dictator as the President in which case they too would be like preys who are riding on the back of the tiger that will devour them soon.
‘The attempt to put Nigerians in tyrannical chains through this viciously evil legislation aimed at crippling the civil rights of protesters must never be allowed to see the light of the day.
Nigerians must defend the democracy that we fought so hard to achieve and stop the anti-democratic forces in the National Assembly from destroying democracy and inhibit the citizens’ exercise of their Universally recognized unalienable Human Rights to civil protests,” it stressed.
Meanwhile, Rep. Emeka Martins Chienedu has distanced himself from any legislative efforts to stifle any form of protests in the country.
In a press statement on Wednesday, the lawmaker who is the sponsor of a bill seeking to jail what he considers unlawful protesters for a maximum of five years, however, recanted, saying that was not the intent of that instrument.
“Having been inundated with calls and messages over a misconception gone viral, I wish to state that, I am the PDP Rep member representing the good people of Ahiazu/Ezinihitte Mbaise Federal Constituency in the Green Chamber of the National Assembly, whose Bill that passed first reading on the floor of the chamber was twisted and misrepresented.
“The caption of the Bill that went viral was never my intent or opinion, neither was it an embodiment of the Bill I sponsored that passed the first reading on the floor of the National Assembly on Tuesday, July 6, 2021, hence, a clear case of misunderstanding, misconception and misrepresentation of the facts.
“As a representative of the people, whose Political idealogy is rooted in democratic tenets, I can never be a party to a system that seeks to stifle or cripple dissenting voices whose right to freedom of assembly, expression and protest is guaranteed by the combined effort of section 39 and 40 of 1999 Constitution as amended, as well as Article 11 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Right to freely Assemble.
“While I urge Nigerians to imbibe the culture of reading beyond Newspaper caption in order to comprehend the body of a message, it is imperative to put the record straight, in order to douse tension and allay the concerns of my teeming adherents.
“The Criminal Code Amendment Bill, 2021, did not talk about criminalizing protest or Protesters in Nigeria, rather, it is a Bill that proactively seeks to preserve life and protect the killing of the innocent through mob action, known as “jungle justice” in our local parlance.
“My argument as captured in the coming lead debate is as follows: that ” now and then we hear and read in the News about mobs moving against people and properties”. And “the word “, mob” connotes a disorderly People, intent on causing trouble or violence”.
“I am laying emphasis that: “Mob actions are usually trigged spontaneously by accusations of a bystander, then joined by another, till it turns to a crowed of vengeful carnage and destruction on its path”.
“And that “the danger with mob actions is that participants typically believe they are punishing an accused of violation of the law when in reality they are delving into jungle justice to the accused who may be totally innocent, and has not been given an opportunity to be fairly heard.
“Consequently, I assert that “they become accusers, judges and executors”.
He also added that “most participants in Mob actions are usually not informed first-hand about the situation before joining the destructive crowed in a blind rage to carry out their orgy of violence”, consequent upon which I cited the “Aluu Four” as “a notable example, wherein in 2012, four male students of the University of Port Harcourt who went on debt recovery, were set-up by the debtors, who accused them of theft, leading to their gruesome murder through mob action.”
He argued further that “a case in 2016, where a man accused of homosexual in Ondo State was beaten to death”, while another “was lynched in Ebonyi State, over accusation of theft of Motorcycle”.
He added that: “One, therefore, wonders the correlation between Criminal Code Cap 38 of the Federation of Nigerian that talks about Mob Action and Riot, and the combined Section 39 and 40 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, that talks about fundamental Human Rights to Protest.
“And also, what the Aluu four of Chuba in Rivers State, I referenced as empirical evidence, got to do with Labour, Political or other lawful Protest as the case may be.
“It is deserving to state unequivocally that in all these, I never prescribed a penalty for offenders since the penalties were already enshrined, rather, Mob action was copiously given the definition that was not clearly captured ab initio, while I vehemently queried the failure of law enforcement agents to prevent mob action (Jungle justice) or punish offenders according to the dictates of the law.
“While it is incomprehensible how a Bill against Jungle justice turned to criminalize lawful Protest in a democratic state like ours, I am by this clarification advising well-meaning Nigerians, especially my teeming adherents to disregard the incoherently deceptive News, as I, Hon. Emeka Martins Chienedu is not only a product of justice but a man of his people, who believer in a democracy where rule of law is sacrosanct”.