A Federal High Court in Lagos has directed that the National Assembly be “put on notice” before the court would consider an application seeking to restrain both the Senate and House of Representatives from passing the Frivolous Petitions Bill, otherwise known as the Anti-Social Media Bill.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun-Ishola gave the directive while declining to grant a motion exparte brought by three non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Enough is Enough Nigeria (EIE); Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), in a suit challenging the constitutionality of the proposed Law.
Mr. Olumide Babalola, lawyer to the NGOs, had brought the motion on March 23, 2016 asking the court to issue an interim injunction to restrain the National Assembly from taking further steps at deliberating on and/or reading the Frivolous Petitions (Prohibition etc.) Bill 2015 for the purpose of passing it into law pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit before the court.
The NGOs are contending that the provisions of the Bill are not justifiable in a democratic setting and would further deepen corruption in Nigeria as it seeks to gag the press and whistleblowers who report untoward practices within private and public circles.
They are also claiming that the Bill would hamper the investigation and prosecution of crimes in Nigeria as informants and witnesses would now be disqualified for failure to first depose to affidavits, adding that their rights as journalists and organizations promoting freedom of expression, freedom of the press and good governance would also be violated.
Observing that the suit is a very crucial one, Justice Olatoregun-Ishola said the Senate and House of Representatives ought to be in the know of the motion presented by the NGOs.
The respondents in the suit filed on March 21 by Mr. Babalola on behalf of the NGO are the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the National Assembly, Senator Abdulfatai Buhari, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information, Communications Technology and Cybercrime; Senator David Umaru, Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary; Senator Samuel Anyanwu,Chairman of the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges; Senator Bala Na’Allah, the Deputy Majority Leader of the Senate and sponsor of the Bill; and the Attorney-General of the Federation.
Justice Olatoregun-Ishola adjourned further proceedings to April 13, 2016.