The Senate president, Bukola Saraki, yesterday said there is nothing like ‘Social Media Bill’ before the Senate while admitting that there are sections against the social media in the Frivolous Petitions Bill, which has generated controversies in the country and are unacceptable.
Saraki spoke in Abuja, while declaring open a two-day sensitisation meeting on implementation of the guidelines on gender-based violence and young persons in Nigeria, organised by Women Arise, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO).
But he assured that the obnoxious portions would not see the light of the day when the Senate finally concludes work on the controversial bill.
Saraki said: “It is not our intention to gag the social media at all. We want to run an open Senate so that you all can be part of it and by being part of it, we can get a better country.
“I want to reassure you that there is no bill in the Senate that is called Anti-Media Bill. I want to assure you that what we have before us is a bill on frivolous petitions; it has to do with petitions generally.
“Generally, when we debate bills at the second reading, we only debate the principles. We do not debate the details of the bill.
“Unfortunately, in the Bill of Frivolous Petitions, there are some sections which I will call obnoxious sections there, and I am sure, as you all know, those obnoxious sections would not see the light of the day by the time the bill is finished, because they have no relevance to the bill at hand which is all about frivolous petitions.”
Saraki, who took time at the occasion to closely watch a 30-minute documentary of the torture and inhuman treatment meted out to three women alleged to have stolen pepper in Ejigbo, Lagos State, condemned the act in its entirety, just as he assured that the Senate will enact laws that would recommend serious punishments for perpetrators of such acts.
Decrying the slow trial of culprits of rape and violence in Nigeria, he reassured that the Senate is coming out with stiff laws against offenders.
He said, “Gender-based violence is one of the most persistent human rights crimes in the world and one of the least prosecuted offences. ”
“These human rights violations pose serious consequences for us all and our future generations; they have to be addressed. We must decide as a nation that this must stop. There is no society that can be a society worth to be proud of if we condone this kind of incident in the society.
“Unfortunately, most societies today are measured by wealth and other values.
“Truly, if we want change in our society, this is the kind of change that is even more important to us. That is why we must decide today to work closely to see that we bring to an end gender-based violence.
“To me, I want to proudly assure you that as the 8th Senate, we will play our own role in giving support to end gender-based violence.
“More importantly is to work to ensure the implementation of the laws. Justice is too slow and we must ensure speedy justice in these kinds of cases. It is my view to ensure that the Senate Committee on Justice takes this as one of the areas of oversight functions to see that cases like this are not slow and justice comes in promptly.”
“It is also necessary for us to review some laws because there are cases that do deserve more than just five years. The cases of rape do deserve serious punishment. This is the trend in most countries that we are aspiring to be today.
“If Nigeria wants to be among the top 20 countries by 2020, it is not only based on GDP that we want to change; it must be based on this kind of value system. As a Senate, we will look at some of these laws and review them where necessary to bring them in line with modern world today”.
The Senate president, while assuring that the 8th Senate would not only run a transparent policy but also an inclusive one, asked the public especially the civil societies to actively participate.
“I want to assure Nigerians that the Senate that we have is your Senate; it is one that will continue to work closely with the people.”
He added: “The 109 of us cannot say we know everything; it is by getting inputs from you that we can make better laws and make Nigeria a better place.”
On her part, convener of the meeting and president, Women Arise, Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, said it was in pursuant of the organisation’s determination to ensure the implementation of recommendations of series of dialogues earlier held with critical stakeholders that it convened the meeting.
She said the objective of the meeting was to disseminate the guidelines on gender-based violence and young people through contacts with local responsible agencies, youths and youth serving organisations in Nigeria.
The senator representing Kogi West, on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Dino Melaye, who delivered a keynote address at the occasion, said in addressing the issue of gender-based violence and young persons, the relevant laws in the country must be amended with a view to recommending stiffer punishments for perpetrators.
He regretted that most of the violence being perpetrated against women and young girls were by people they know, love and trust such as boyfriends, husbands, friends, neighbours, school mates, colleagues and other relatives.
“Nigeria condones and reinforces abusive practices against women; manipulation and misinterpretation of religious doctrines are used to place women in bondage,” he noted.