REP CHINEDU: My Bill has nothing to do with jailing protesters

When Hon. Emeka Martins Chinedu, member of the House of Representatives representing Ahiazu-Ezinihitte Mbaise Federal Constituency of Imo State, introduced a Bill seeking to punish those who engage in mob action, he never envisaged that the intent of the Bill will be grossly misrepresented to mean a Bill seeking to jail protesters.

The wrong interpretation attracted the angst of civil society groups. In this chat, he explains why he sponsored the bill, attendant issues and why he will withdraw the bill, this week.

Your bill entitled,”An Act to amend the Criminal Code Act, CAP 38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to further preserve the sanctity of human life and property, and to provide specifically for mob action, prescribe punishment and other matters,” is generating a lot of controversy. It has been characterized in some quarters as a Bill seeking to jail protesters in the country. What exactly is the Bill all about?

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I moved a bill on July 6, 2021 seeking to amend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The objective of my Bill is to stop killing of innocent people through mob action. But I was shocked that my Bill was misrepresented saying that it was meant to jail protesters for a period of five years.

In the first place, I am a democrat and I can never be a party to such a Bill which intent is to criminalise protest, not to talk of moving the Bill. Protest is one of the tools which is used by an individual or a group of people to drive home a legitimate point of view and to fight against injustice. Protest is legitimate. It is legal. It is constitutional. It is a fundamental human right and there is absolutely nothing criminal about it. Every citizen has the right to protest.

So, I cannot move a Bill which is against the people because I am not anti-people. I am a man of the people. I am a product of the masses. I was able to get to where I am today as a member of the House of Representatives through the votes cast for me by my people. So, I cannot be a product of the collective will and aspiration of my people and still be against them. I cannot be for and against the people at the same time.

More so, I am the owner of this Bill. I moved the Bill on the floor of the House. And you are hearing, to borrow a cliché, from the horse’s mouth, the intention of my Bill, which is, to stop the killing of innocent people through mob action.

If the intention of the Bill is to jail protesters for five years, I will stand by it. If you move a Bill, you are duty bound to stand by it. I cannot move a Bill and some people want me to accept what I didn’t intend in the Bill.

So, I moved this Bill and I am stating categorically that the intent was misrepresented and misinterpreted.

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