Lawmakers in Nigeria have decided to withdraw a ‘Frivolous Petitions Bill’ widely seen as a guise to restrict freedom of expression and gag Nigerians on social media.
Officially named “an act to prohibit frivolous petitions; and other matters connected therewith”, the bill was positioned as an attempt to prevent Nigerians from maliciously discrediting public office holders and also prescribed jail terms and fines of up to $10,000 for offenders. But after a failure to win enough votes on the floor of the Senate, the bill was officially withdrawn.
It is not entirely surprising that the bill failed to become a reality. It had resulted in severe backlash from Nigerians, on and off social media. Bukola Saraki, the senate president, had hinted that the bill would not be passed back in February when he described it as “dead on arrival” at a Social Media Week Lagos event.
In the last few years, social media has become a crucial outlet for a new generation of Nigerians who, unlike generations before them, are keen to demand more accountability and transparency in government through increasing political conversations on Twitter.