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CJN backs anti-social media bill as NLR, CSO, others kick

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Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed on Monday supported the passage of the frivolous petition bill into law adding the Freedom of expression bound and boundaries.

But, Ministry of Justice, Nigerian Law Reform, Civil Societies, Online media kicked against the proposed law by the Upper Chamber explaining that there existing provisions in the constitution that addressed the bill.

This is just as Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), Ministry of Information, Nigerian Police Force (NPF), Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) shunned the public hearing frivolous petition bill.

Mahmud, who was represented by Clara Ogunbiyi, said that frivolous petitions have been the order of the day across board in all tiers of government.

She said although there is freedom of speech, there freedom of expression within its ambit of the constitution as laudable as it may seem.

Mrs Ogunbiyi said there must be limits to adhere to especially with the exuberant, frivolous and unguarded write-ups in the print media, social media platform like Facebook and Twitter.

She added that the right to freedom in Nigeria has been overlooked while many established democracies across the world have enacted freedom of information regime.

“Before now, Nigerians regarded freedom of information as a luxury which was only practicable in the Western world.

“Citizens must rely on confirmed reports. In a country where freedom of information act is in operation, anyone can make a request for information.

“There are no restrictions on your age, nationality or where you live. Although some information can be withheld to protect various interest which are allowed.

“In a democratic world, the public is expected to have access to information not only on how they are governed but the interest to individual or group,” she said.

However, she argued that a consequential effect is where government officials themselves fail to benefit from public input which could ease their decision making.

While making contributions, she stated the advantages of the bill which includes bringing the constitutional provision of freedom of opinion within bounds and not at large.

Also to safeguard the rights and privileges provided under the constitution against all forms of frivolous abuse and for purpose of ensuring the only genuine and profitable complaints are lodged against the individuals, corporate and government.

Mrs Ogunbiyi added that the bill will serve as the purpose of verifying the origin and authenticity of the complaint and the complainant which serves to bring out the merits and demerits of the petition.

“The suggestive time limit within which a complaint or petition must be made is within six months of the event.

“Subjects to extension of this limit for making complaints musts be dismissed by the regulatory body concerned,” she said.

Godswill Akpabio, the Senate majority leader said the bill is not intended in gaping anyone’s opinion but aimed at frivolity and thanked Mrs Ogunbiyi for dissecting the bill in the manner she did.

 “It’s not just a function of safeguarding democracy but also safeguarding the finance. The reason why we are having difficulties is because some are based on envy, frivolity and jealousy,” he said.

James Manager representing Delta south senatorial district commended the CJN representative saying that the insights given by Mrs Ogunbiyi were his thoughts on the matter.

Kicking against the bill, Nigerian Law Reform, said the demerits of this bill, by far, outweigh its merit in a democratic and system of governance where whistle blowing has become an integral part globally.

Hon. Commissioner of Nigerian Law Reform, Chibu Eze said the provision as currently couched, would affect the internal mechanisms of resolution of issues with government agencies.

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