Hundreds of protesters mostly made up of civil society organisations (CSOs) and bloggers on Tuesday stormed the National Assembly and demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Bill for an Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters Connected Therewith, which has been tagged as the “Anti-social Media Bill”.
In a letter written by Media Mogul Anthony Ehilebo (@anthonyehilebo), Barrister Isibor Aigbe (@isibams) , Ariyo Atoye, Aisha Yesufu, Mukhtar Dan ‘Iyan and Dr. Ahmad Isa on behalf of citizens.
The letter read; “After years of military dictatorship, Nigeria is finally coming into its own as a vibrant democracy; it is therefore unacceptable and unconscionable for us to return to the league of pariah nations by enacting laws which stifle the fundamental hallmark of any free people: their right to self expression”.
“We are of the firm opinion that our request shall be adhered to and the process of turning this bill into law shall be discontinued”.
“However, if it doesn’t, we shall continue to take direct action, including but not limited to pressurizing the international community to impose travel bans on all the Nigerian legislators who voted to turn this bill into law and deny citizens their fundamental human right.”
The letter was laid before the Senate and consequently referred to the Committee on Judiciary that is handling the bill sent to the committee by Senate President Bukola Saraki.
Senators Enyinnaya Abaribe and Shehu Sani met the protesters and promised to report their grievances to the Senate.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah (Kebbi South), which passed through the second reading in the Senate last week, spells out two years imprisonment with the option of a N2 million fine for anyone convicted of posting “abusive statements” on the social media.
The bill also prohibits any petition or statement intended to report the conduct of any person for the purpose of an investigation or inquiry without a duly sworn affidavit confirming the content of the petition to be true and in accordance with the Oaths Act.
The bill also stipulates that any petition or complaint that is not accompanied by a sworn affidavit will be incompetent and cannot be used by any government institution, agency or bodies established by any law for the time being enforced in Nigeria.
The bill also provides that any person who unlawfully uses, publishes or causes to be published any petition or complaint that is not supported by a duly sworn affidavit will be liable to two-year imprisonment or N4 million fine.
The bill adds that where an individual through text messages, tweets, WhatsApp or any social media, posts any offensive item knowing same to be false with the intention to malign the image of a person, an institution of government or other bodies established by law, will be guilty of an offence and liable to two years imprisonment or a fine of N2 million.
Omolara Adegoke- Abuja
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