Cjn, Justice Mohammed Throws Weight Behind Frivolous Petitions Bill
BEVERLY HILLS, March 08, (THEWILL) – The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed has made a case for the proposed frivolous petition bill 2015, stressing that the bill would bring the constitutional provision of freedom of opinion within bounds and not at large.
The CJN, who called on all Nigerians to support the bill, dismissed fears that it was designed to gag the media or infringe on the rights and privileges of Nigerians, explaining that the bill would help protect everyone in the country when finally passed into law.
He spoke on Monday through a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Clara Bata Ogunbiyi, at a one-day public hearing organized by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters on Frivolous Petitions Bill, 2015.
While pointing out that that the reason behind the proposed bill was very laudable and auspicious, Justice Mohammed said: “This is because by the very use of the word frivolous, it connotes unseriousness, ill-motivation and suggestive of bad faith which is not within the contemplation of the constitutional provision of freedom of expression.
“The measure to curb the excesses is, however, not meant to serve the purpose of denial of access to information, nor is it meant to do away with checks on the executive, legislative and judicial recklessness as well as accountability of stewardship in all facets of public office.
“The aim of the bill should be for the purpose of ensuring that whatever information is disseminated to the public, must come from a legitimate, genuine and a known source which is identifiable and meant to safeguard the best interest of the general public for purpose of good administration and governance.
“In other words, it is to check against information given in bad faith, with the intention to serve ulterior motives. I wish to add quickly that the most difficult war to fight is where it is waged against a faceless opponent.”
It will be recalled that since the bill was presented before the Senate by the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na'Allah, APC, Kebbi South, the bill has attracted a lot of opposition and angst from Nigerians. Even President Muhammadu Buhari was reported to have distanced himself from the bill, stating that he would not have anything to do with any bill that would infringe on the rights of Nigerians.
The CJN assured that the bill when passed, it would safeguard the rights and privileges provided under the constitution against all forms of frivolous abuse for whatever reason and from wherever direction whatsoever, noting that “It will serve the purpose of verifying the origin, and authenticity of the complaint and the complainant; serve to bring out the merits or demerits of the petition; serve to reveal the relationship of the parties and also the duration of association.”
These, he said, would ensure that only genuine and profitable complaints/petitions are lodged against individuals, corporate entities and the government. “It spells out the benefit and what interest are to derive from the petition. It serves as a caveat/notice to the 3rd party users of information,” he added.
Noting that frivolous petitions had been the order of the day across board in all tiers of government, said although freedom of speech and, freedom of expression all exist within its ambit of the constitution as laudable as it might seem, Justice Mohammed however revealed that there must be limits to adhere to them, especially with the exuberant, frivolous and unguarded write-ups in the print media, social media platform, such as Facebook and Twitter.
According to him, the right to freedom in Nigeria has been overlooked, while many established democracies across the world have enacted freedom of information regime.
“Before now, Nigerians regarded freedom of information as a luxury which was only practicable in the Western world. Citizens must rely on confirmed reports. In a country where freedom of information act is in operation, anyone can make a request for information,” he stated.