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Senator Sabi Abdullahi, Odinkalu clash over meeting rules at forum on social media bill

Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (Niger North) and Prof Chidi Odinkalu, a human right activist, on Monday, had an altercation over presentation time at a Town…

Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (Niger North) and Prof Chidi Odinkalu, a human right activist, on Monday, had an altercation over presentation time at a Town Hall meeting on Social Media and anti-Hate Speech Bills holding in Abuja.

The meeting was organised by African Independent Television (AIT).

The altercation started during a panel discussion when the moderator, Prof Ladi Sandra Adamu of Ahmau Bello University Zaria, announced that each panellist would speak for only five minutes.

But Senator Abdullahi quickly raised an observation that the time was too short to present their points.

He said, “I’m a sponsor of one of the bills and my observation is that, you are talking about 5 mins for each panellist. And my understanding is that we are here to present out thoughts on this particular bill.

“At the end of the day, if I will be speaking for five minutes and I have these very erudite speakers, I think I will be overwhelmed in terms of minutes, not in terms of the substance of what is going to be said. If I’m giving more time, perhaps I will be able to do justice to my presentation.”

At this point, the moderator, Prof Ladi asked the lawmaker, “Can you be brief in your presentation?”

Senator Abdullahi continued, “For us to be here, it means we have taken the subject matter very seriously. If I will come here and be given five mins to talk, honestly, the whole idea of my coming here is defeated.”

He said five minutes was not enough to address the subject matter.

He therefore requested for 20 minutes for the two senators (himself and the senator representing Niger East, Senator Mohammed Sani Musa) to present their thoughts on the subject matter.

After their presentations, he said the panellists can take turns to make comments on them.

Odinkalu interrupted and rejected the lawmakers appeal, saying rules were set before the commencement of the programme and they must be obeyed.

“Nigeria is a country in which people think rules don’t matter. If there were rules before we came here, those rules should be applied.

“If people come here and start arguing exceptionalism because they are Senators, that is not right.

“So, there is not going to be 20 mins for anybody,” he said.

Odinkalu’s comments drew loud applause from the audience. And amidst rowdiness, Senator Abdullahi raised and said, “I take exception to this comment.”

Odinkalu replied, “You can take exception but this is our country too. Feel free to take exception but this is our country too. They are rules here and you cannot change them. Go to the Senate and change them.”

The moderator struggled to calm the situation, and despite the shout of “No” from the audience, she amended the time, allowing the two Senators to speak for 20 mins, and other for 15 mins.

Senator Musa, in his contribution, said, “Where we erred, you have every right to bring us back to track. And I believed this is a discourse that should give that opportunity to every one, so that we mend that difference that we have.”

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