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Buhari defends free speech

08 December 2015, 19:04

Abuja - Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari on Monday warned the country’s Senate against passing any bill that is inconsistent with the Constitution of the country.

Buhari was reacting to the ongoing controversy surrounding the social media bill currently being debated on the floor of the Nigerian Senate.

President Buhari in a statement through his Senior Special Assistant on media and publicity, Garba Shehu, assured Nigerians that he won’t assent to any legislation that might be inconsistent with the constitution

The Senate had on December 2 passed for second reading, a bill seeking two years imprisonment with an option of N2 million fine for Nigerians who post “abusive statements” on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media.

The controversial bill, tagged “A Bill for an Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters Connected There With” is sponsored by Bala Ibn Na’allah, a member of President Buhari’s party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Freedom of speech

According to the bill: "Where an individual through text message, tweets, WhatsApp or through any social media, post 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 N2 million."

The bill also provides for mandatory six months imprisonment without an option of fine for any person who unlawfully uses, publish or cause to be published any petition, complaint not supported by a dully sworn affidavit.

Shehu insisted that Buhari was not averse to lawful regulation, so long as the development was done within the ambit of the constitution which he swore to uphold.

He warned that should the Senate pass any law considered a breach to the freedom of speech as enshrined in the constitution, he would withhold assent to such bell and prevent same from becoming a law.

The Senate still requires an approval from the House of Representatives and president Buhari before the bill can become law.

Shehu further explained that Buhari is fully aware of the public reservations about the proposed legislation but assured that there is no cause for alarm as the Senate itself a democratic Senate.

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- News24


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