Senator Bukola Saraki, Senate President of Nigeria today said that the contentious “Petitions Bill”, which has come to be tagged “Social Media Bill’ introduced to the Senate of Nigeria “is going nowhere and will not be passed into law.”
The Senate President told the well-attended Social Media Week Lagos forum today that Bill was ”dead on arrival.”
According to the Senate President, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari recognizes the power of social media in dealing with corrupt and irresponsible politicians.
The Bill which has generated controversy following its features provisions stipulating two years imprisonment, a fine of N2 million or both for anyone who, through text message, tweets, WhatsApp or any social media, post any abusive statement capable of setting the public against any person and group of persons, an institution of government or such other bodies established by law.
But the Senator Saraki believes that social media platforms keep politicians at under public scrutiny noting that it prevent them from laundering government funds.
“Let’s focus on bigger issue. We don’t want smaller issue to distract us. The frivolous Bill is going nowhere. It is dead on arrival”, Saraki told attendees at the Social Media Week Lagos, ending today after opening last Monday.
In another development, the Senate President also told participants during the interactive session that Nigerians will now be able to track bills and other activities of the National Assembly online as from May, this year.
The online tracking of the activities of the National Assembly is part of the digital governance revolution underway in Nigeria, which is through helps to deepen the country’s democracy and make government accountable and transparent through use of online tools.
”Our Information Technology Department has been working on that and by May, this year, we would be able to have both tracking of bills and direct access to members of parliament” Saraki adds.
According to him , social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, are veritable technology means that enhance the electoral process for ensuring quick transmission of results in 2015 General Elections in Nigeria.
”Everybody around the world are congratulating us in conducting a free and fair elections in 2015, most especially unsiting an incumbent government. This may not have been achieved without the power of social media”, told the Social Media Week Lagos attendees.
Saraki says, “the role of social media is a big issue because without the platform, we wouldn’t have seen a change from a non-performing government to an opportunity for another government to perform.”
According to Saraki, ”back in the days, the only person that knows the result of elections was the INEC Chairman, which he can decide to alter figures and nobody would know. But now, with the power of social media, we were able to conduct a transparent election because as results are being collated and announced in different polling centre, it goes viral through power of social media. So it was very difficult to rig.”
Senator Saraki however assured attendees that he will not rest on its oar in ensure strategic partnerships with stakeholders to deepen the effect of social media in enhancing socio-economic growth in Nigeria.
”My presence here today is sending a big message to say that we at the National Assembly recognize the role that social media is playing and we should work together to make that happen”, Saraki says.
Speaking of the National Budget, the Senate President adds that, “by 2017, we will begin to have public hearing on budget. So, it is not just our committees, we would now have contributions from civil societies and relevant stakeholder in planning the budget.”