The Senate yesterday passed for second reading a bill seeking two years imprisonment with an option of N2 million fine for Nigerians who post “abusive statements” on the social media.
According to the bill, it will be unlawful to submit any petition, statement intended to report the conduct of any person for the purpose of an investigation, inquiry without a duly sworn affidavit confirming the content to be true and in accordance with the Oaths Act.
Also, any petition or complaints 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.
Any person who unlawfully uses, publishes or causes to be published any petition, complaint not supported by a duly sworn affidavit is liable to as much as two-year imprisonment and as high as N4million fines.
Also, where an individual through text messages, tweets, WhatsApp or through any social media, posts any abusive statement knowing same to be false with intent to set the public against any person or group of persons, an institution of government or such other bodies established by law will be guilty of an offence and liable to two years imprisonment or a fine of N2million.
The penalties are contained in A Bill for an Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters Connected Therewith (SB.143), sponsored by Senator Bala Ibn Na’ Allah (Kebbi/APC).
Na’ Allah in a lead debate said the bill will ensure good governance.
He said: “Our past has portrayed us as a society where by mere writing of frivolous petitions against public officials, you can have their rights abused by taking certain measures that practically take away their right of presumption of innocence only to be found later that the petition, as strong as it appears on paper lacks merit.
“As a nation with strong desire to move forward, this negative trend must be reversed, if only the desired objectives of the present government are to be met.
“The bill seeks to provide punishment for frivolous petitions by making sure that only credible and verifiable petitions are presented for public use. The utility of the bill is to equally save the time for good governance and resources that go into investigating frivolous petitions.
‘Nigeria Has 48m Internet Users’
The Nigerian online community, with its over 48 million internet users and rapidly growing social media users, has metamorphosed into the country’s most formidable political opposition to the government, LEADERSHIP reports.
At least 7.1 million people use Facebook daily in Nigeria, making the country Africa’s biggest user of the social media platform. Nigeria also has an aggressive Twitter community and large number of users on other social media networks.
The Nigerian government has for long contemplated social media regulations for some years, although they have always been met with stiff opposition from the masses.