A Nigerian House of Representatives member, Hon. Chinedu Emeka Martins has formally withdrawn a contentious bill that seeks to amend the Criminal Code Act, following widespread opposition to the proposed amendments. Saying his intentions were misunderstood, he stressed that he did not sponsor the bill to criminalise protests.
The lawmaker, representing Ahiazu/Ezinihitte Mbaise Federal Constituency, (PDP, IMO), in a letter, titled; Withdrawal of my bill presented on July 6th 2021 and addressed to the Speaker of the Lower Chamber, said he decided to withdraw the bill which had already passed the First Reading because, according to him, his intention was grossly misconstrued.
He said his resolve to withdraw the bill that passed the First Reading on July 6, 2021, was due to the way and manner his well-intended action to prevent the untimely death of innocent Nigerians through mob action (Jungle Justice) was generating controversies across the country.
Martins pointed out that the Bill sought to amend the Criminal Code Act Cap 38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, to provide specifically for the crime of mob action, prescribe punishment and for other related matters. He also explained further through a press release that, “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 the local parlance.”
He noted that unfortunately, the unending controversy around the Bill was a product of a wrong narrative that was shaped by an equally misleading caption to wit; Nigerian Lawmakers Propose to Jail Protesters for Five Years. He lamented that efforts he made to clear the air did not help matters because mischief-makers already hijacked it intending to heat the polity.
Martins, therefore, declared: “As a Democrat whose ideology and preference they rooted on a society that is devoid of controversy, and after due consultation with my constituents, I crave your indulgence for the bill to be withdrawn forthwith.”
“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 a democracy where rule of law is sacrosanct,” he asserted.
The lawmaker hinted that the wrong narrative about the bill may have been shaped by the misleading title of “Reps bill threatens five-year jail term for ‘unlawful protesters’” by the Vanguard new paper of July 6, 2021, stressing that, that title may have provided a handle for political opponents to cause mischief and distract from the true essence of the bill.
He pointed out that: “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.
“As a representative of the people, whose political ideology 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.”
Hon. Martins urged Nigerians to imbibe the culture of reading beyond Newspaper caption in order to comprehend the body of a message, adding, it is imperative to put the record straight, in order to douse tension and allay the concerns of his teeming adherents.