Senate To Remove Controversial Portions Of Frivolous Petitions Bill
SAN FRANCISCO, December 10, (THEWILL) – Following the harsh criticisms that have greeted moves by the Senate to pass the Frivolous Petitions Prohibition Bill, now referred to as the anti-social media bill, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki has assured that the upper legislative chamber under his leadership will not endorse any legislation that will deny Nigerians their freedom of expression.
The Senate President, who spoke on the sideline of the December edition of the Lagos Business School lecture series on Tuesday night, stressed that the current tension over the bill was unnecessary because there was no way the Senate would allow the bill to be passed in its current form.
The controversial bill, sponsored by Senator Bala Na'Allah recommends two years imprisonment with an option of a N2 million fine for “abusive statements” on the social media and has already scaled second reading as at last week. With the proposed law, it becomes unlawful to submit any petition or statement intended to report the conduct of any person or entity for the purpose of an investigation of inquiry without a duly sworn affidavit confirming the content to be true and in accordance with the Oaths Act.
Going by the bill, any petition or complaint not accompanied by a sworn affidavit will be incompetent and cannot be used by any government institution, agency or body established by any law of the time of it being enforced in Nigeria.
It further finds any anyone who unlawfully uses, publishes or causes to be published any petition or complaint not supported by a duly sworn affidavit liable to two years imprisonment or the option of N4m fine. Where an individual, through text message or through any social medium posts any abusive statement knowing same to be false with intent to set the public against any person or group of persons, an institution of government or such other bodies established by law will be guilty of an offence and liable to two years imprisonment or a fine of N2m.
But as the agitation against the proposed legislation continued to rise, President Muhammadu Buhari last Monday assured Nigerians that he will not assent to any bill that is inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution.
When asked by newsmen to state what he thinks of the controversial bill, Saraki explained that it was not intended to muzzle anybody and that the senators would definitely raise issues on the vexatious aspect of the bill at the committee level before it eventually returns to the floor of the Senate for debate.
While debunking speculations that the Senate was determined to infringe on the fundamental human rights of Nigerians, he asserted that the Senate under his leadership would not do anything to deny Nigerians of their rights.
The Senate President assured that, “There is nothing like a social media bill at the Senate. What we have is the Frivolous Petitions Prohibition Bill although we have discovered that there is a portion that dwells on social media, but I can assure Nigerians that the Senate will not pass any law that seeks to deny Nigerians their freedom.
“I'm sure that the controversial part of the bill will be expunged when it returns for debate,” he asserted.