Monday, 7 December 2015

Senate Makes Further Clarification On Social Media Bill

The Senate on Monday, December 7, made clarification on the social media gag bill that has caused an uproar among Nigerians.

The bill which was sponsored by Bala Na’allah of the Kogi south All Progressive Congress came under intense criticism.

It sort to approve a significant clampdown on freedom of speech and a deliberate target at critics of federal lawmakers and the National Assembly.

But in a statement by its spokesperson, 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.

Sabi said there is an elaborate process which the bill must undergo before it becomes a law.

He noted that some of the comments on the bill emanated from misconception and misunderstanding of the objective 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,” Sabi said.

He said the next stage before the passage of the bill is to appropriate committee or committees for further detailed legislative action where the details, its intention and clause by clause implications of the bill.

This stage, Sabi said will 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 said.

He 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.

“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,” Sabi added.

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 practised 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,” he said.

Last week, Nigeria’s senators moved a bill designed to curb freedom of speech on social media. The bill, having passed second reading proposes up to seven years sentencing or N5 million fine for anyone who intentionally publishes false information that could threaten national security through electronic media.

The bill also seeks to criminalize anyone disseminating abusive statements through text message, Twitter, WhatsApp, or any other form of social media for a penalty of two years or a N2 million fine or both.