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Frivolous Petitions Bill: Online publishers sue Senate

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

ABUJA —The Registered Trustees of Online Publishers Association of Nigeria has gone before the Federal High Court in Abuja to obtain an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Senate from passing into law the proposed bill for an act to prohibit Frivolous Petitions and other matters collected therewith.

The controversial bill, if passed into law, stipulates two years imprisonment, a fine of N2 million or both for anyone who, through text message, tweets, whatsapp or any social media, post any abusive statement capable of setting the public against any person and group of persons, an institution of government or such other bodies established by law.

The plaintiff, in the suit it filed through its lawyer, Mr. Ugochukwu Osuagwu, argued that the Bill which was sponsored by Senator Bala Ibn N’Allah from Kebbi South, will amount to a gross violation of section 39 (1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

In an affidavit deposed by Mr. Daniel Elombah, an online publisher and member of board of the plaintiff, he told the court that the “offensive bill” was presented before the Senate on December 2 by its committee on Judiciary, Human Right and Legal Matters, with a view to passing same into law.

Social Media Bill

It specifically prayed the court to among other reliefs, make “a declaration that in view of the provisions of section 39(1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution, the defendant, her officers, members, agents and privies cannot lawfully pass into law a bill for an Act to prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters connected therewith as presently constituted and or drafted.

“A declaration that the passage into law of the proposed bill for an Act to prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters connected therewith, will amount to the violation of freedom of expression of the plaintiff as guaranteed under section 39 (1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“An order of injunction against the defendant restraining her from further debating and considering proposed bill for Frivolous Petition and Other Matters connected therewith, which violates section 39(1) (2) of the 1999 constitution.

The plaintiff argued that allowing the proposed law would among to a gross breach of section 39 of the constitution which it said provides that, “every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”

“That it is in the interest of justice for this court to grant the reliefs sought in this originating summons,” the plaintiff added.

Meantime, no date has been fixed for hearing of the suit.


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