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Senate Bows to Public Opinion, Kills Anti-Social Media Bill

Ayodele Afolabi,  Abuja

ABUJA, NIGERIA (AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Senate has unanimously rejected the Bill seeking to criminalise frivolous petitions in the media, following public outcry and condemnations that had trailed the legislation since last year November when it was introduced on the floor of the Senate.

The Bill titled: ” The Frivolous Petitions ( Prohibition) Bill 2015″ which was sponsored by the Deputy Leader of the Senate, senator Bala Ibn Na’ Allah ( APC  Kebbi South) was earlier  rejected by the presidency, which described it as a Bill capable of eroding the fundamental rights of Nigerians.

Following the controversy generated, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, mandated the Senate committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, to conduct public hearing and invite stakeholders on the proposal and report to senate on the way forward.

Laying the report of the committee,  the chairman of the Senate Committee, David Umaru, said there was preponderance of rejection during the public hearing than acceptance on the bill, recommending strongly that the Bill should be withdrawn.

According to him, having conducted public hearing on the Bill, the committee “accordingly recommends as follows: ‘that the Senate do withdraw the Bill for an Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions; And Other Matters Connected Therewith'”.

He stated that majority of the stakeholders at the public hearing vehemently opposed the passage of the Bill into law, as it was perceived as a step that will take the country back, especially now that the world has become a global village.

He said in democracy, any law that is perceived to obviate or has the capacity to unduly abridge the fundamental rights of the citizens to privacy and free speech, should be jettisoned.

He added that the  Bill seems to oppress persons who have grievances to complain against or to give information, which could be helpful to security agencies, anti-crime agencies in the fight against terrorism and corruption.  

Senator Umoru submitted further that while working on the Bill, the committee discovered that as laudable, commendable and innovative as the bill might seem, its passage into law cannot be supported because it affects the anti corruption war, which is one of the major focal points of the present administration.

Speaking after the presentation of the report, the senator representing Kaduna central, Shehu Sani, said to protect the democracy of Nigeria and basic rights of Nigerians, the bill should be withdrawn.

He said the Facebook, twitters and social media are essential for the growth of democracy in Nigeria, adding that they are ways for Nigerians to reach their leaders without administrative hindrances and financial consequences.

Similarly, the Senate Minority Leader, Godwill Akpabio, called for withdrawal of the bill as recommended by the committee.

He explained that though the intent of the Bill was to bring sanity to the state as supported by the judiciary and the Police, but that

the principles of democracy require that majority view prevails, as it is against the bill by majority of Nigerians calling for its stoppage and must  be stopped.

Accordingly , the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary, ruled that since there are statutes in the Constitution which has taken care of the relief in the bill, there is no need to duplicate existing laws.

He said the rejection of the Bill has shown that it is not all Bills that come to the Senate that must be passed into law.

He however pointed  out that the Senate cannot be intimidated from working to ensure that the right process is followed in passing or rejecting a Bill.


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