Senate to schedule date for public hearing on media regulation bill

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The 9th senate would fix a date for a public hearing on the Social Media Regulation Bill 2019 next week.

The Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters said this on Friday, barely four days after the bill passed second reading on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday.

The Senator representing Niger East District, Sani Musa, is sponsoring the legislation.

Chairman of the Senate committee, Opeyemi Bamidele, said notice would be given to the relevant stakeholders because of the interests the bill had generated.

The bill seeks to make provisions for protection from Internet falsehood and manipulations and other related matters.

Bamidele hinted that his panel would hold meetings with the sponsor of the bill, and the leadership of the National Assembly before convening the public hearing.

Only a former governor of Enugu State, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, spoke against the passage of the bill during the debate on its general principles.

Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah also raised a constitutional point of order to draw the Senate’s attention to the fact that the passage of the bill would be in conflict with certain provisions of the constitution.

However, senators Ibrahim Gobir, Elisha Abbo and Abba Moro, in their various contributions, supported the bill during the debate that lasted about 10 minutes.

The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, put the passage of the bill for a second reading to a voice vote after confirming that no senator was ready to speak against it.

The majority of the lawmakers in the chamber unanimously voted in support of the bill and it was read the second time.

The senate president then referred the bill to the judiciary and human rights panel for further legislative action.

He said, “Our committee would meet next week and fix a date for the public hearing.

“Because of the interest that the bill has generated by the public, it would be better that we give all stakeholders sufficient notice.

“We want an adequate representation of all stakeholders, particularly from the civil society.

“We will also, next week, discuss with the sponsor of the bill and the leadership of the National Assembly about the planned public hearing.

“We are going to give sufficient notice, we are not going to rush the process.”

The bill, if signed into law, among others prescribed a three-month jail term and a fine up to N10m for individuals or corporate firms that run afoul of its provisions.

But the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Paul Usoro (SAN), said on Friday that the NBA would attend the public hearing on the anti-social media bill.

Usoro said the association was making efforts to get a copy of the bill to study it and take a position.

He said, “We are looking for a copy of the bill so we can read and analyze it and once they call for a public hearing, we will be there.”

Falana also vowed to attend the public hearing on the bill.

“I am going to participate in the public hearing. We will appear to educate them on the matter,” he said.




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