Posted by News Express | 8 March 2016 | 2,689 times
A controversial social media bill before the Nigerian parliament that calls for punishing those who criticise public officials in cyberspace has been opposed not just by free speech activists, but even Nigeria’s own Justice Ministry.
Nigeria’s Justice Ministry objected to the Frivolous Petition Prohibition Bill Monday, saying it runs afoul of the country’s constitution and international treaties.
“It is the view of the Ministry of Justice that this bill not be passed in its present form,” the director of legal drafting at the Ministry of Justice, Patrick Etta-Eyo, told senators Monday in the capital city Abuja at a public hearing over the bill.
Etta-Eyo said the bill “violates the constitution and other treaties Nigeria is a signatory to, including the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.” He called for dropping the offensive provisions in the bill.
“The Frivolous Petition Prohibition Bill is not reasonably justified in a democratic society,” Etta-Eyo said, adding that the bill was against freedom of expression and the press.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari too has said that he would not assent to the bill, which some Nigerians call the anti-social media bill.
According to one section of the bill, anyone who makes any abusive statements made against a public official in the social media, which the author knew was false, could face up to two years imprisonment or two million Naira fine ($10,152).
Activists say the bill targets social media because it has played a huge role in putting public figures on their toes.
Some activists have also said that a section of the bill requiring citizens to file an affidavit before submitting a petition is a ploy to protect corrupt officials from being reported to authorities.
The Nigerian Law Reform Commission also rejected the bill.
“Any bill that will restrain citizens from reporting crimes doesn’t help the government’s agenda to fight corruption,” Chibueze Okorie, member of the commission, said at the hearing.
“The demerits of this bill far outweighs the merits it seeks to achieve,” Okorie added.
•Text courtesy of Anadolu Agency. Photo shows Justice Minister Malami, SAN.
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