Leading Civil Rights Advocacy Group:- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has warned the Senator Ahmed Lawan- led National Assembly to slow down on its excessive penchant and its dangerous passion for making negative, draconian and undemocratic legislations to avoid imminent implosion and nation-wide anti-National Assembly protests similar but bigger than the year 2020 #ENDSARS Protests.
Similarly, HURIWA has cautioned the National Assembly to stay away from playing the perpetual role of a slave and boot lickers of the executive arm of government so as to safeguard the sanctity and integrity of the institution of the legislature which has the legislative powers of the federation clearly stated in section 4 of the 1999 constitution.
In the light of the above, HURIWA is of the opinion that it is anti-democratic, unconstitutional for the legislative chamber known as the National Assembly to be systematically turned into a “clearing house” for the executive arm’s addiction for applying for all kinds of foreign loans to the extent that our external loans have become unbearable and unrepayable.
In a media statement, the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Director Miss Zainab Yusuf said the consistent erosion and self-inflicted derobing of the National Assembly of its independence, smacks of invitation to anarchy and doom just as the Rights group predicted that soon the critical masses may be on the streets to canvass for the closure of the National and State legislatures since these are now rubber stamps and subsumed under the tyrannical umbrella of the Executive arm of government.
“Nigerians from all walks of life are worried that the weak leadership in both the senate and the Federal House of Representatives and the way both the speaker and senate president go Cap-In–hand bowing to President Buhari and accepting and passing all kinds of draconian bills against Nigerians will lead to a nation-wide demands for the abolition of the legislature soon.
HURIWA reminded the Senator Ahmed Lawan led Senate that with his kind of slavish leadership of the Upper legislative chamber, Nigerians may begin by canvassing the abolition of the Senate so Nigeria runs a unicameral legislature like Senegal whereby the Senate was abolished not long ago in 2001 after Abdoulaye Wade won the Presidential poll.
“Majority of the critical masses of Nigeria are beginning to doubt the functionality of the Senate that has since 2019 abdicated from her sacred duty of carrying out transparent and accountable oversights on the Executive arm of government but has become subservient to the Executive arm of government”.
HURIWA also dismissed as draconian and a celebration of Idiocy for the National Assembly to ever contemplate making legislations that are unconstitutional such as stopping workers in the health sector from embarking on strike action or the law against access to social media by Nigerians.
HURIWA said even without Constitutional democracy, it does not make sense for a Country to have a law constraining any section of its workforce to operate like slaves in the twenty first century World.
HURIWA has therefore kicked against the bill, before the House of Representatives, seeking to stop health workers from embarking on strike, describing the proposed piece of legislation as an incurable breach of the principles of freedom of association as contained in the Constitution of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
HURIWA said it was in solidarity with the organised Labour in Nigeria for reminding the legislators that the Country is a member of the ILO and Compilation 751 that recognise the rights of workers to strike as a fundamental right used as a means of defending economic and social rights and interests of employees.
Titled ‘An Act to amend the Trade Disputes Act, Cap T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to prohibit medical practitioners in the employment of federal, state and local governments in the essential service sectors from embarking on strikes and to accelerate administrative and judicial proceedings in the determination of trade disputes involving them and related matters,’ the bill is sponsored by the member representing Igbo-Eze North/Udenu Federal Constituency in the lower chamber of the National Assembly.
“Like most legal experts, HURIWA agrees that the fundamental bedrocks of modern industrial and democratic society is the right to strike. It is undeniable that no sane and functional society can be truly democratic where the right to strike is absent or dubiously taken away from the backdoor. The fundamental right to strike has been explained by a leading commentator on labour issues by L. MacFarlane, as “an indispensable component of a democratic society and fundamental human right” (The Right to Strike; London: Penguin Books, 1981, p.12).”
“HURIWA subscribes to the submission by experts that the right to strike is an essential tool of trade unions all over the world for the defence and promotion of the rights and interests of their members, and is a necessary counter-veiling force to the power of capital. Leading philosophers like Kahn-Freund affirmed thus: “there can be no equilibrium in industrial relations without a right to strike – (P.Davies and M. Freedland, “Kahn-Freund Labour and the Law”). As argued by a law expert the need for stability is very crucial in order to promote collective bargaining which helps to achieve social justice in the workplace. The right to strike is thus so important to the functioning of a democratic society that its removal would be unjustified.”
HURIWA lamented that the Same Ninth Session of the Senate had in 2019 introduced a draconian bill that wanted desperate to regulate the use of social media in Nigeria. The sponsor of the legislation said it will curb fake news on the internet. The bill, ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019’ sponsored by Mohammed Sani Musa, was debated and till date it is in abeyance.
HURIWA recalled that the previous eighth Senate, introduced same anti-press freedom bill which had sparked outrage across the country, and was later withdrawn. The old bill titled “A Bill for an Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and other Matters Connected therewith” was sponsored by Bala Ibn Na’Allah and sought to compel critics to accompany their petitions with sworn court affidavit, or face six months imprisonment upon conviction.Part of that bill said “Any person who unlawfully uses, publishes or cause to be published, any petition, complaint not supported by a duly sworn affidavit, shall be deemed to have committed an offence and upon conviction, shall be liable to an imprisonment for six months without an option of fine.”
HURIWA recalled that the bill then also said “Any person who acts, uses, or cause to be used any petition or complaints not accompanied by duly sworn affidavit shall be deemed to have committed an offence and upon conviction, shall be liable to an imprisonment for a term of two years or a fine of N200,000.00 or both.”
HURIWA said if that notorious and obnoxious bill by the last session of the Senate was passed into law, people found guilty of making false remarks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other similar media, would have faced two years in jail or N2 million fine.
HURIWA which condemned the move by the National Assembly to outlaw strike action in the health sector has asked the National Assembly to devote their times in churning out useful laws just as the Rights group wondered why the National Assembly has not made a law to ban public office holders from using public funds to seek medical treatment abroad or sponsor the educational pursuits of their Children instead of seeking to muzzle the freedoms of workers to achieve the objective of COLLECTIVE BARGAINING through legally recognised Industrial strike action within permissible limited provided for by extant Labour laws.