Social Media Bill: Buhari differs with Senate, restates commitment to free speech.
IN what looked like a major public disagreement with the Senate over the controversial Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters Bill, (also known as Social Media Bill) before the Senate, President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday reiterated the commitment of his administration to the protection of free speech in keeping with democratic tradition.
The President’s reaction, which was contained in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu came against the background of the public hostility towards the bill now being debated by the Senate.
Shehu noted that the President had sworn to defend the constitution of Nigeria and would not lend his hand to anything that is inconsistent with the constitution, but added that Buhari was not averse to lawful regulation, so long as that is done within the ambit of the constitution which he swore to uphold.
He added, “The President said free speech is central to democratic societies anywhere in the world. The President explained that without free speech, elected representatives won’t be able to gauge public feelings and moods about governance issues.
“As a key component of democratic principles,” the President acknowledged that people in democratic societies “are so emotionally attached to free speech that they would defend it with all their might.”
Shehu explained that Buhari was fully aware of the public reservations about the proposed legislation but assured that there is no cause for alarm, “because the Senate is a democratic senate. The President won’t assent to any legislation that may be inconsistent with the constitution of Nigeria.”