December 6, 2015

Social media censorship bill: We’ll take your input, Senate assures Nigerians

By Abiodun Alade

The leadership of the Senate has assured Nigerians that they will be able to make input and determine the fate of the controversial Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Related Matters bill, sponsored by Senator Ibn Na’Allah, APC, Kebbi South.

Criticism has greeted the bill as many noted that it is targeted at censoring the usage of the social media.

In a statement on Sunday by its spokesperson, Senator Aliyu Sabi, the Senate said members of the public, including those for or against the Anti-Frivolity bill or parts of the bill will have the opportunity to shape its final outcome as there is an elaborate process which the bill must undergo before it becomes a law.

It noted that some of the comments on the bill emanated from misconception and misunderstanding of the objective which it said is meant to protect all individuals and institutions, including journalists and social media users.

“The senate is committed to freedom of speech and a fully inclusive and participatory democracy”.

“The process of passing a bill is comprehensive and provide for inputs to be taken from all and sundry. The fist stage is merely to read the short title of the bill. The second stage is purely to debate the general principles.

“The next stage is committal of the bill to appropriate committee or committees for further detailed legislative action where the details, intendment and clause by clause implications of the bill is dissected by the committee. This stage also involve public hearing in which members of the public, civil society, non governmental organizations and all interested parties for or against the bill have the opportunity to shape and influence its content.

“The outcome from this committee stage is what will be finalized and then represented to the chamber for clause by clause consideration and approval or disapproval by the Senate. Thereafter, if the bill is approved, then the clean version of the bill is forwarded to the House of Representatives for concurrence or otherwise”, he stated.

The Senate added that the differences that may emerge from the House of Representatives version will be resolved through the Conference Committee of the two chambers of the National Assembly.

He added that the anti-frivolity bill will go through the whole hog and there is no intention to make the process of passing this bill any different. “Accordingly, the Senate wants to re-assure the public about this. So, all those who are either for or against this bill or its part and any other one have ample opportunities to reshape it”, he stated.

Senator Sabi further explained that the Eighth Senate is conscious of its responsibility to the people and will not do anything that will stifle participation and inclusion. “We will always ensure we pass laws which meets best practices across the world and indeed democratic scrutiny. Suggesting that the senate wants to pass a law not even practiced in China etc is being mischievous.

“This Senate is people-centred, pro-poor and participatory. We will always act in the best interest of the citizenry. In this regard, we are totally committed to performing our duties and discharging our responsibilities without let or hindrance.

“All those spreading hate campaigns as a result of the Anti-frivolity bill, hauling insults at and making derogatory comments on Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the institution of the Senate are advised to key into the elaborate legislative process that a bill must pass through before becoming law if they are interested in shaping the outcome of the bill. This is the right way to go and part of the change we all aspire for our democracy

“The eighth Senate is totally committed to protecting the liberty of all Nigerians and the independence of the Senate and the legislative arm of government as we deepen our democratic journey”, Aliyu stated.