EXCLUSIVE: ‘I was not attacked’ | El-Rufai speaks on Zaria, social media bill and Senators

A video showing an alleged attack on Nasir El-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna state in Zaria, surfaced online a few days ago.

The video showed a small crowd waiting outside a compound for someone or something.

Subsequently, a black Toyota Prado SUV, alleged to be carrying El-Rufai emerged at high speed as the crowd hurled stones and sticks at it.

Some of the attackers even attempted to chase the vehicle as it sped away.

Speaking on the alleged attack, Governor El-Rufai, revealed to YNaija at The Future Awards Africa in Lagos, that he was not the object of the attack.

“A couple of days ago, a video was posted on social media alleging that I was attacked in Zaria, which of course is completely false.”

He blamed the news of the attack on social media users who hide behind anonymity to malign others and tell false stories.

“I do not think it’s right for people to use anonymity to spread falsehood and malign others. I have been a victim of it so I know how it feels,” he stated.

The governor’s comments is coming at a time when there is a massive social media outrage against the proposed anti-frivolous bill which translates into a gag on freedom of speech on social media.

On the bill dubbed ‘anti-social media’, El-Rufai posits that Senators should not be persecuted for proposing the bill, pointing out that the social media is a powerful tool that can be misused by people with evil intentions.

“I think that is the challenge. It is not enough to take extreme positions, and you cannot condemn the Senate because there is some abuse that needs the protection of the law. On the other hand, to say that anyone that says anything on social media should go to prison or be prosecuted, is trying to stifle free speech which is also wrong.”

El-Rufai sees freedom of speech as a right guaranteed by the constitution that must be protected at all cost despite the tendency for the abusive use of the social media.

“Social media is a very powerful tool, which can be used but can be abused as well. Free speech is guaranteed by the Constitution and we must do whatever it takes to protect it but the protection of free speech also comes with responsibility.”

The governor also urged the Nigerian youth to be responsible on social media platforms as well as actively seek amiable solutions to the conundrum instead of lashing out at the senate for the proposed bill.

He said: “I think what young people should do is to think through how to protect free speech while at the same time ensuring responsible conduct from those that use social media platforms.

“Going forward, I think what we should look for is a piece of legislation that protects free speech but doesn’t protect the anonymity that others are using to spread false stories which can have security and other consequences and spread falsehood which can have defamatory consequences in the common law.”

He added that the outrage against the proposed bill on social media as well the collective efforts of Nigerians will help streamline the terms of the bill before it becomes law.

“It’s a tricky situation but I think the movement in the social media against it will ensure that the end of the day, if any legislation along these lines is going to be passed it will have to take care of these two terms that I’ve expressed,” El-Rufai added.

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