Senate throws out social media bill
The Nigerian Senate has withdrawn the Frivolous Petition Bill sponsored by Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah.
The withdrawal followed the submission of a report by Senate’s Committee on Human Rights and Legal Matters to the upper chamber on Tuesday.
Senator David Umar who submitted the report said during plenary that if passed, the provision of the bill will conflict with some already available laws.
The bill seeks to regulate the use of social media and short message service (SMS) in the country but it drew the irk of Nigerians who found a portion of the bill obnoxious.
Senate President Bukola Saraki had on December 2, 2015, said “if any part of the bill is found obnoxious or against public interest, it will be expunged during clause by clause consideration of the bill.”
The contentious part of the bill reads: “Where any person through text message, tweets, WhatsApp or through any social media post any abusive statement knowing same to be false with intent to set the public against any person and or group of persons, an institution of Government or such other bodies established by law shall be guilty of an offence and upon conviction shall be liable to an imprisonment for 2 years or a fine of N2, 000, 000 or both such fine and imprisonment.”
President Muhammadu Buhari also disagreed with the provisions of the bill, opting to favour free speech in keeping with democratic tradition.
“The President said free speech is central to democratic societies anywhere in the world. The President explained that without free speech, elected representatives won’t be able to gauge public feelings and moods about governance issues,” said the President in statement signed by his media aide, Garba Shehu in DEcember, 2015.
“As a key component of democratic principles,” the President acknowledged that people in democratic societies “are so emotionally attached to free speech that they would defend it with all their might.”