The National Coordinator of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Otunba Adams, has condemned the Senate for seeking to introduce a bill aimed making it an offence to publish any petition or complaint against a public officer without being supported with a sworn affidavit.
Adams said the bill titled ‘An act to prohibit frivolous petitions and other matters connected therewith’ is dangerous for the nation’s nascent democracy.
Addressing newsmen in his office yesterday in Lagos, Adams 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 gag it.
“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,” Adams said.
He wondered if it was a coincidence that in less than six months into the life of the present administration, the senate is seeking to introduce such bill, adding that it is curious that a bill to gag the media, which he said is the life wire of any democracy, is about to find its way into the country at this moment.
“In 1984, during the administration of General Muhhamadu 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,”he added.
The OPC leader said the introduction of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill 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 a free reign for public officers to deep their hands into the nation’s coffers, knowing that nobody is watching them.
While stating that he condemns attempt by anybody to defame public office holders, Adams added that such public officer can approach the law courts to seek redress in case of any false publication against him or her.
“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,” the OPC leader noted.He, however, appealed to President Buhari not to bow to pressure from corrupt politicians to sign the bill into law, saying the people of the country are eagerly looking forward to the president’s promise to make democracy stronger.