SENATE on Tuesday, unanimously rejected the passage of the Frivolous Petitions Bill, otherwise known as the Anti – Social Media Law and asked the committee handling it to withdraw it forthwith.
Senators who made contributions shortly before the bill was invariably thrown away, noted that apart from the fact that public opinion was against its passage, it would amount to curtailing the freedom of expression and duplicate existing laws on libel and defamation among others.
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.
He also said that the committee discovered that some of the nation’s extant Acts, such as the Penal Code, the Criminal Code, the Cyber crime Acts, already have sufficient provisions to address the issues that the Frivolous Petitions (Prohibition, etc) ‚bill 2015, seeks to address.
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”
The senator added that the passage of the bill will bring about hardship to citizens Iiving in places distant from High Court and Federal High Courts as they would be required to first incur transportation costs to the Court and also pay for drafting, typing and fiIIing of affidavit, before they could report breaches of peace.
Apart from this, he said forms of communication such as text messages, tweets, whatsapps or other social media platforms, that the bill seeks to restrain, are regulated by the Nigerian Communication Act of 2003.
The application of this bill, he added, will Iead to role conflict because the bilI is closely related to the offence of defamation, which may be civil or criminal that are covered in some of the country’s extant Acts.
The committee therefore, recommended that the Senate should withdraw the bill.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the session, said the fact that the bill was thrown out was a message to Nigerians that the senate usually make wide consultations before passing any bill into law.