Abuja, Nigeria – There is a stream of reactions from the citizens as Nigerian government hints on plans to regulate the social media in the country.
Amongst other fundamental human rights, Freedom of speech has become a debate in Nigeria across several conversation points and this has raised a lot of questioning as to why people in power want to stifle the voices of citizens with regulating what they say and how they say it.
Claims made have been that the issue of social media regulation is to extinguish fake news but many Nigerians don’t think so.
While there are several stakeholders, at the forefront of this proposition is the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
The minister appearing before members of the House Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values in the House of Representatives to defend the ministry’s proposed 2021 budget mentioned that the next war to be fought in the nation and across the world is the fight against the social media.
While making reference to the just concluded #EndSARS protest in the country, Mohammed stated that government is not after eradicating social media as the medium of communication has come to stay but to ensure that it is not a tool for spreading and propagating false information.
However, on Twitter, this direction of the government has received condemnations from Nigerians who says the minister is bent on stifling the voices of citizens.
See some reactions below
Lai Mohammed at different points has shown he is bent on regulating social media and as a result wants to have control of what is shared on the media. In 2019, the minister was one of the political leaders proposing an anti-social media bill which will ultimately regulate contents from Nigerians on social media. For the minister, this bill is aimed to sanitize the cyberspace of passive hate comments on social media targeted at the government.
However, the bill, after meeting several criticisms, did not pass.
Lai Mohammed has been considered by many, so desperately, as leading the vanguard with the agenda against free speech.
“If we don’t regulate social media, it will destroy us” – Lai Mohammed
Nigeria’s Minister of information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has warned that if the government does not regulate social media, it will destroy the nation.
The minister speaking to the House of Representatives Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values stated that there is need for a policy to regulate social media and check misinformation as well as fake news.
Mohammed further said that the biggest challenge facing Nigeria is fake news and that the ministry’s National council of information has had an extensive deliberation on the matter before they launched the campaign against fake news in July 2018.
The minister while responding to questions from members of the committee said the recent #EndSARS movement was successful because of how social media was used for mobilization.
In his words, the minister said
“The war today revolves around two things. Smartphone and data and these young men don’t even watch television or listen to radio or read newspapers. You will be shocked that when you start arguing with your children, they will be quoting the social media. So, we need a social media policy in Nigeria and we need to empower the various agencies and we need technology to be able to regulate the social media.”
Reps Warn Federal Government against Social Media Regulation
The House of Representatives in response to the issue of social media regulation has warned the Federal government against suppressing the voices of citizens as it will lead to clamping down on free speech and press freedom.
The Chairman of the committee, Olusegun Odebunmi urged the government to apply technology in regulating social media while ensuring the cyberspace still works.
However, a member of the committee, Hon. Oghene Emma Egoh warned against the proposed move in the country saying that it will be counterproductive.
Consequently, the house committee and the minister of information is sharply divided on the issue and as however, cautioned the government not to regulate social media.