The member representing Ahiazu Mbaise and Ehinihitte Mbaise Federal Constituency of Imo State, Emeka Chinedu, has said that he didn’t sponsor a bill criminalising protests in the country.
The lawmaker who spoke to newsmen on Wednesday said that the bill which he sponsored, that scaled first reading and was getting widespread condemnation, only condemned mob action, not protesters.
Chinedu said as a product of democracy he would not sponsor any bill that would criminalise protests and protesters.
He said, “Having been inundated with calls and messages over a misconception gone viral, I wish to state that I am the PDP House of Representatives 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 criminalising 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 for the violation of law when in reality they are delving into jungle justice on 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”.
“I also added that most participants in mob actions are usually not informed first-hand about the situation before joining the destructive crowd 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.”
“My argument further cited a case in 2016, where a man accused of homosexuality in Ondo State was beaten to death”, while another “was lynched in Ebonyi State, over accusation of theft of motorcycle”.
“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 has the Aluu Four of Chuba in Rivers State, which I referenced as empirical evidence, got to do with Labour, Political or other lawful protests 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 it is incomprehensible how a Bill against jungle justice turned to the criminalisation of 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 believes in democracy where rule of law is sacrosanct.”