Frivolous Petition Bill: Senate Will Not Gag The Press, Saraki Insists

Bukola SarakiSenate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki on Monday reiterated that there is no Bill before the Senate that is aimed at gagging or stifling the media in spite of misrepresentation and attacks, which has trailed the Frivolous Petition Bill sponsored by Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn Na’allah (APC/Kebbi South).

The Senate president’s reassurance was contained in his remarks as chairman of a sensitization meeting on the implementation of Guidelines on Gender Based Violence and Young Persons in Nigeria, organized by the Women Arise for Change Initiative in Abuja.

Mr. Saraki called for an end to all forms of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in the country just as he said the offence is the “most persistent human right crimes in the world”.

On the Frivolous Petition Bill popularly called anti-Social Media Bill, he said that any area the people find objectionable will be removed when it is being considered clause by clause by the Senate.

The Senate president, according to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sanni Onogu in Abuja, said: “Finally, I want to throw more light on the Frivolous Petition Bill. There is a lot of misrepresentation which has led to attacks on the Senate with some wondering whether we want to gag the press. We don’t have any anti-Social Media Bill before us. What we have is the Frivolous Petition Bill which concerns cases of writing and submission of petitions.

“Unfortunately there is a Section 4 of the bill which many people are not comfortable with‎. This bill is a private member bill not a Leadership bill. But I have since met with the President of Online Media Owners who agree there’s need for further self-regulation. When we are considering the bill line by line, we will remove any area that people find objectionable because this is a Senate that is for the people and will not make any anti-people law”, he stated.

He further noted that GBV poses grave danger to both present and future generations of the nation’s young ones if not decisively tackled now.

He said: “Gender Based Violence is one of the most persistent human right crimes in the world, one of the least prosecuted offences, and one of the greatest coercion to lasting peace and development. He stated that every child in the country has a right to be protected against GBV.

“These human rights violations pose serious consequences for us all and our future generations if left un-addressed. Efforts being made at various quarters to ensure peace and security, reduce poverty and achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals will be futile without addressing these crimes.

“The young person in Nigeria constitutes the most important resource that our country has. They represent over 60 percent of our population which is a significant work force and human resource base for Nigeria’s economic development. The ability to protect them from Gender Based Violence sharpens their capacity to be part of that great future we desire for our country.

“A child that is vulnerable to GBV will end up being as inefficient as an unsharpened and blunt knife. He/She will not have the cutting edge to deliver efficiently. Let me state it here today that if we decide as a Nation that Violence against Young person must stop, nothing stops us from pursuing it as an ideal and achieving it.

“What we must be reminded is that we all have made a choice as a people and choices have consequences. We must all resolve to work across all our political prejudices to honestly confront the challenge of GBV against young person in our country as a matter of right for every child.

“We have all just seen a video. It shows how barbaric the act is. My presence here is to drive home how important the matter is, raise it to national discuss.

“I commend those who have done a lot before like Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin. No society can be developed or move forward with these incidents of violence. Let me state it here today that if we decide as a Nation that Violence against Young person must stop, nothing stops us from pursuing it as an ideal and achieving it. What we must be reminded is that we all have made a choice as a people and choices have consequences”, the Senate president stated.

While pledging to continually associate and support organisations like the Women Arise Initiative “with high social and economic impacts”, Senator Saraki pledged that the “8th Senate will ensure that every policy frame work required is put in place to ensure the success of this advocacy”.

He added: “Our Legislative Agenda is our charter with the people. We already select some priority laws that are tailored towards solving problems that our people confront on a daily basis. These are bills that will solve economic problems, unemployment, insecurity and corruption. ‎Our people should be assured that this Senate will always act in the best interest of the people”.