The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki has reacted to the criticisms that have trailed moves by the Senate to pass the Frivolous Petitions Prohibition Bill, now known as the anti-social media bill, by assuring that the upper chamber under his leadership would not endorse any legislation that will deny Nigerians their freedom of expression.
Speaking on the sidelines of the December edition of the Lagos Business School lecture series in Lagos, Tuesday night, Saraki noted that the current tension over the bill was unnecessary because there was no way the Senate would allow the bill to be passed in its current form.
The bill, sponsored by the Deputy Leader of the Senate, Senator Bala Na’Allah, and which has already passed second reading, recommends two years imprisonment with an option of a N2 million fine for “abusive statements” on the social media.
The bill also makes it unlawful to submit any petition or statement intended to report the conduct of any person or entity for the purpose of an investigation of inquiry without a duly sworn affidavit confirming the content to be true and in accordance with the Oaths Act.
But when asked to state what he thinks of the controversial bill, Saraki explained that it was not intended to muzzle anybody and that the senators would definitely raise issues on the vexatious aspect of the bill at the committee level before it eventually returns to the floor of the Senate for debate.
While debunking speculations that the Senate was determined to infringe on the fundamental human rights of Nigerians, he asserted that the Senate under his leadership would not do anything to deny Nigerians of their rights.
“There is nothing like a social media bill at the Senate. What we have is the Frivolous Petitions Prohibition Bill although we have discovered that there is a portion that dwells on social media, but I can assure Nigerians that the Senate will not pass any law that seeks to deny Nigerians their freedom. I’m sure that the controversial part of the bill will be expunged when it returns for debate,” Saraki assured.