A bill that will make it illegal to write and submit a petition against a public officer without a sworn affidavit on Wednesday scaled the second reading on the floor of the Senate.
Sponsored by Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah representing Kebbi South, the bill is entitled: “An Act to prohibit frivolous petitions and other matters connected therewith.”
According to the bill, it will be unlawful to submit any petition, statement intended to report the conduct of any person for the purpose of an investigation, inquiry without a duly sworn affidavit confirming the content to be true and in accordance with the Oaths Act.
Anyone found guilty will be imprisoned “for a term of two years or a fine of N200,000” on conviction for acting, using or caused to be used any petition or complaint not accompanied by a sworn affidavit.”
Also, any petition or complaints not accompanied by a sworn affidavit will be incompetent and cannot be used by any government institution, agency or bodies established by any law for the time being enforced in Nigeria.
Section 4 of the Bill states: “Where any person through text message, tweets, WhatsApp or through any social media, post any abusive statement knowing same to be false, with intent to set the public against any person and/or group of persons, an institution of government or such other bodies established by law shall be guilty of an offence and upon conviction shall be liable to an imprisonment for two years or a fine of N2 million or both such fine and imprisonment”
Section 3 says: “Where any person in order to circumvent this law makes any allegation and or publish any statement, petition in any paper, radio, or any medium of whatever description, with malicious intent to discredit or set the public against any person or group of persons, institutions of government, he shall be guilty of an offence and upon conviction shall be liable to an imprisonment term of two years or a fine of N4 million.”
Na’Allah said: “Our past has portrayed us as a society where by mere writing of frivolous petitions against public officials, you can have their rights abused by taking certain measures that practically take away their right of presumption of innocence only to be found later that the petition, as strong as it appears on paper lacks merit.
“As a nation with strong desire to move forward, this negative trend must be reversed, if only the desired objectives of the present government are to be met.
“The bill seeks to provide punishment for frivolous petitions by making sure that only credible and verifiable petitions are presented for public use. The utility of the bill is to equally save the time for good governance and resources that go into investigating frivolous petitions.”