ADEKUNLE ADESUJI, ABUJA
Senate on Tuesday, overwhelmingly kicked against the passage of the Frivolous Petitions Bill, popularly known as the Anti – Social Media bill.
The bill, sponsored by Bala Ibn Na’allah, a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) from Kebbi State, has been widely criticised, and is seen as not only a significant clampdown on freedom of speech, but a deliberate target of critics of federal lawmakers and the National Assembly.
At the consideration of the bill, federal lawmakers, Senators who made contributions spoke against the bill before the whole chamber unanimously used voice votes to reject the bill.
The lawmakers said passing the biill would amount to curtailing the freedom of expression and duplicate existing laws on libel and defamation among others.
Presenting the report of the committee for consideration,Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, David Umaru, noted that his panel during the public hearing it conducted, discovered that majority of the stakeholders, opposed the passage of the bill.
He noted that as Iaudable, commendable, and innovative, that bill might be, its passage into law in its current form cannot be supported as it will affect the anti-corruption war, which is one of the major focal points of the present administration.
Umaru said, “Even though the bill has a tacit implication of discouraging frivolous and malicious petitions aimed at discrediting or setting the public against any person, group of persons or institutions of government, its passage into law in this current form, will do more harm than good.
“We also discovered that the passage of this bill into law will conflict with some provisions in some of our extant Acts, which make provisions for whistle blowers protection in Nigeria.
“Whistle blowers are already protected by the Economic and Financial Commission Act (Section 39(1); Independent Corrupt Practices Commission Act (section 64); Terrorism Prevention Act (section 31); Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act (sect on 46.
“Hence, passing this bill will expose them to more dangers and threats to life. What we need to do now as legislators, is to amend and update some of our extant Acts to accommodate emerging global trends rather than having a new Iaw that may be a duplication of other existing laws and counter-productive”