Nigeria: Govt dumps social media Bill

Digital Content

Nigeria's government has this week decided to withdraw the controversial Frivolous Petition Bill after it failed to garner enough support.

The action was taken following a submission by the Committee on Human Rights and Legal Matters, headed up by David Umar, on the back of growing criticism from human rights activists, advocates of free speech and Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs).

The sponsor of the controversial bill, Bala Ibn Na'Allah, said the aim of the intended legislation was to check upsurge of frivolous petitions and publications in the social media. It was also designed to regulate social media platforms, SMS, Tweets, and WhatsApp messages.

The Bill sparked public outrage when it was discovered that politicians would be protected from detractors and offenders would be liable to a US$10,000 fine.

Umar said if the law was passed it would amount to a violation of citizens' rights and would contradict existing laws while impose duty of investigation on petitioners and curtail efforts to fight corruption.

"Any law perceived as infringing citizens' rights should be jettisoned [and] the passage of the bill cannot be supported as it will affect anti-corruption war of the government. It will do more harm than good," he said.

While seen as a threat to freedom of expression, the Frivolous Petition Bill has also been criticised for encroaching on the territory of government agencies, including the Nigerian Communications Commission (NNC).
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