Posted by Mayowa Okekale, Abuja | 8 March 2016 | 2,624 times
Online personalities and other stakeholders who registered their presence during the Public Hearing on the Frivolous Petitions Bill demanded that the Senate should accept the death of the bill as the social media is the only avenue serving as a vehicle for the voices of the common man.
Powerfully arguing their case yesterday at the Senate Conference Room 022, National Assembly Complex, Abuja, they stressed the needs to kill the bill, maintaining that social media should not be blocked because of the minority that have abused it.
During his keynote address, Justice Clara Ogunbiyi, representative of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, spoke of the necessity of the bill, stating that “freedom must be within the laws.”
Ogunbiyi, who told participants that they have the right to express themselves but within boundary, added that “complaints on public office holders must be formally written, including some elements of what, where, and how, as information to help investigations.”
She asserted that media outfits must operate under registered identities, for information to be traceable, maintaining that “anything frivolous is worthless and serious complaints must be distinguished from the frivolous ones. God gives us freedom but he did not ask us to do anything we like without boundaries.”
Representing the Senate President Bukola Saraki, Senator Godswill Akpabio, while declaring open the public hearing, reassured that the National Assembly would not pass any bill that would not gag the media or infringe on the rights of Nigerian citizens.
Earlier in his opening speech, Chairman, Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, and Legal Matters, Senator David Umaru, identified the need for the public hearing, saying that it was an avenue through which public comments on proposed legislations are gauged, in a democratic setting.
“As a responsive Senate, I must say we pay attention to the yearnings and aspirations of the public. And an occasion like this is a beauty of democracy where the views of stakeholders on legislations are respected,” Umaru said.
He noted that the Senate Committee in charge has not taken any step yet.
Also speaking at the event, Commissioner of Nigerian Law Reform Commission (NLRC), Mr P.C Okorie, explained that his commission does not support the Frivolous Bill, raising concerns on its implications on the Nigerian citizens.
Okorie said that submitting petitions without an affidavit would be unlawful and existing laws can also sufficiently address any frivolous and mischievous post. “The Frivolous Bill appears to be too open-ended,” he stated.
When asked if Criminal Code gives room for prosecution of false publications on social media, Okorie replied saying that the law be amended.
A participant, Gbenga Sesan, while contributing to the debate, expressed disappointment in the position of Justice Okorie over the bill, asking: “Should whistleblowers have right to anonymity in a country where citizens are not safe?”
•Photo shows Senate President Bukola Saraki.
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