The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed on Monday March 7, 2015 threw his weight behind the Frivolous Petition Bill, 2015 (SB.143), saying the bill when passed would protect the interest of all Nigerians.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria who was represented by Justice Clara Ogunbiyi of the Supreme Court made this known at a public hearing organized by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters. She described the idea of the bill as ‘laudable’ and said it is to guard against information given in bad faith.
Justice Ogunbiyi stated that frivolous petitions have become the order of the day across the three tiers of government.
“Freedom of expression is provided for in our constitution but that freedom is within bounds. The Frivolous Petitions Bill has lots of advantages and serves as a caveat notice to the third party”, she said.
While making her contributions, Justice Ogunbiyi highlighted the merits of the bill which include to protect the rights and privileges of individuals as enshrined in the constitution against abuses, to ensure only true and profitable complaints are lodged against individuals, corporate bodies and government as well as to bring the constitutional provision of freedom of opinion within bounds.
Enumerating how the Frivolous Petitions Bill will be governed, Justice Ogunbiyi stated that a complaint must be made within six months of the event.
“Subjects to extension of this limit for making complaints musts be dismissed by the regulatory body concerned. Any complaint made outside of the stipulated time limit should be dismissed,” she said
According to her, a complaint must be signed by the complainant with a sworn affidavit obtained from a High Court of Competent Jurisdiction and bearing the complainant’s name, address and registered during working hours.
Reeling out procedural suggestions for withdrawing complaints or petitions under the Frivolous Petitions Bill, Justice Ogunbiyi said a committee for gauging the seriousness or frivolity of a petition or complain should be set up.
“The investigating committee can advise for dismissal of a complaint depending on the outcome of investigations”, she said.
Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Godswill Akpabio in his remarks thanked Justice Ogunbiyi for taking time to break down the bill, reiterating that the bill wasn’t aimed at stifling freedom of speech but to curtail mischief and frivolity.
Senator David Umar, Chairman Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, assured the cross section of Nigerians who attended the hearing that the committee would fairly present their to the Senate.
The controversial Frivolous Petitions and Other Related Matters Bill 2015, otherwise known as Social Media Bill, was sponsored by Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah and seeks to prohibit frivolous petitions intended to report the conduct of any person of an investigation, inquiry or inquest without a duly sworn affidavit.