In any democracy, bills are sponsored either by the executive arm of the government or the members of the National Assembly. The bill usually passes through three stages before it finally becomes the law.
The stages include first reading, second reading, and the final approval by the House. Before the final stage, the bill is committed to a committee which would oversee the conduct of public hearing to feel the impulse of the general public on the proposed bill.
The political activities in Nigeria during the year under review did not go without controversies, especially on some of the bills currently before or passed by the National Assembly.
In this article, Legit.ng brings to the fore the three major controversial laws made by the National Assembly that triggered reactions and counter-reactions among Nigerians.
1. Hate speech bill
The Senate on Tuesday, November 28, reintroduced a bill that seeks to penalise persons found guilty of hate speech.
The national commission for the prohibition of hate speech bill was sponsored by the deputy chief whip, Aliyu Abdullahi.
The bill prescribes the death penalty for anyone found guilty of spreading a falsehood that leads to the death of another person.
The bill also seeks the establishment of a national commission for the prohibition of hate speech to help investigate and prosecute offenders.
The reintroduction of the bill generated controversies among Nigerians.
Some civic groups kicked against the bill because of its narrow and unclear definition of what constitutes hate speech.
They said the provisions of the bill would be contrary to the Nigerian constitution if the bill eventually becomes law.
The constitution protects the rights to unhindered speech, expression and association.
Notable among Nigerians who kicked against the bill was the former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, who warned Nigerian senators against moves to pass the bill.
He said the freedom of speech and other key elements of civil liberties which Nigerians enjoyed between 1999 and 2015 should not be taken away by the current administration.
In its reaction, the Senate said it would not force the controversial hate speech and anti-social media bills on Nigerians.
The upper chamber gave the promise as scores of protesters stormed the National Assembly demanding the immediate withdrawal of the bills aimed at regulating the social media and prescribing capital punishment for hate speech offenders.
2. Anti-social media bill
Another bill that generated reactions and protests among Nigerians is anti-social media bill. The proposed law which was sponsored by the senator representing Niger East at the Senate, Mohammed Sani Musa, titled: A bill for an act to make provisions for the protection from Internet falsehood and manipulations and for related matters, 2019.
Senators Uba Sani and Oseni Yakubu who addressed the protesters on behalf of the president of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said that the bills would not be passed if they were rejected by Nigerians during the public hearing.
Senator Uba Sani, who represents Kaduna Central, said: “We have heard your agitation. We believe it is a very important agitation. Some of us in the chamber have also been involved in the struggle for the enthronement of democracy in the country.
“The two bills in question were introduced by some of our colleagues. Some of us in the National Assembly, including the Senate president, would appear at the public hearing. Whatever Nigerians want is what the 9th Senate would do.
“The law is not about the 109 senators. It is about Nigerians. Democracy is about free speech, it is about the rule of law. That is why their voices are extremely important. That is why we believe that your agitation is valid and also in the best interest of our own country. We are going to certainly work with you on the day of the public hearing. I can assure you we are going to do whatever is in the best interest of our country."
3. Finance bill
This bill also triggered reactions from Nigerians, especially the financial and tax experts, who believe that the law would put a heavy burden on them in terms of tax payment.
The House of Representatives on November 28, passed the 2019 finance bill one week after the Senate approved the piece of the legislature sent by the executive.
The bill proposes fiscal measures in support of the 2020 Budget of the federal government of Nigeria, with extensive tax implications for the country.
With a total proposed expenditure of N10.33 trillion against total expected revenue of N8.15 trillion, resulting in a deficit of N2.18 trillion; the 2020 Budget is projected to be financed partly by tax revenues expected to be generated through the key fiscal changes introduced by the bill.
Speaking on the bill, the minister of finance, budget and national planning, Zainab Ahmed, had told a gathering at financial analysis firm, PWC, on Wednesday, November 29, that the provisions of the bill would come into effect on January 2, 2020.
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According to her, the intent of the bill is to overhaul the country’s tax provisions and raise more revenue for the government.
Meanwhile, Legit.ng had previously reported on 10 major election outcomes that surprised Nigerians.
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