The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed has backed the proposed Frivolous Petition Bill which seeks to gag the media.
Mohammed while speaking yesterday at a one day public hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human rights and Legal Matters on Frivolous Petitions Bill, 2015, urged all Nigerians to support the bill, saying when finally passed into law, it would help protect everyone in the country.
Represented by a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Clara Bata Ogunbiyi, The Chief Justice said, the right to freedom in Nigeria has been overlooked, while many established democracies across the world have enacted freedom of information regime.
Noting that freedom of speech and, freedom of expression all exist within the ambit of the constitution, Mohammed stressed that there must be limit to adhering to them, especially with the exuberant, frivolous and unguarded write-ups in the print media, social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter.
He said, “Before now, Nigerians regarded freedom of information as a luxury which was only practicable in the Western world. Citizens must rely on confirmed reports. In a country where freedom of information act is in operation, anyone can make a request for information.”
According to Mohammed, the bill was meant to bring constitutional provision of freedom of opinion within bounds and not at large.
Mohammed said, “The very use of the word frivolous, connotes unseriousness, ill-motivation and suggestive of bad faith which is not within the contemplation of the constitutional provision of freedom of expression. Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed
“The measure to curb the excesses is, however, not meant to serve the purpose of denial of access to information, nor is it meant to do away with checks on the executive, legislative and judicial recklessness as well as accountability of stewardship in all facets of public office.
“The aim of the bill should be for the purpose of ensuring that whatever information is disseminated to the public, must come from a legitimate, genuine and a known source which is identifiable and meant to safeguard the best interest of the general public for purpose of good administration and governance.
‘’In other words, it is to check against information given in bad faith, with the intention to serve ulterior motives. I wish to add quickly that the most difficult war to fight is where it is waged against a faceless opponent.”
The Chief Justice explained that when the bill is passed, it would safeguard the rights and privileges provided under the constitution against all forms of frivolous abuse for whatever reason and from wherever direction.
“For purpose of ensuring that only genuine and profitable complaints/petitions are lodged against individuals, corporate entities and the government. It will serve the purpose of verifying the origin, and authenticity of the complaint and the complainant; serve to bring out the merits or demerits of the petition; serve to reveal the relationship of the parties and also the duration of association.
‘’It spells out the benefit and what interest are to derive from the petition. It serves as a caveat/notice to the 3rd party users of information,” Mohammed said.