It feels like with every cycle of oppressive behaviour, the Federal government remembers that social media is a tool of dissent and threatens to either regulate social media or restrict it altogether. It is such a common trope that it has become part of our news cycle, along with raises in taxes, strikes and incidences of injustice.
This cycle is sponsored by Buhari cabinet Information minister, Lai Mohammed who made a statement during a address on Wednesday that the Buhari administration was finalizing plans to divert government funding towards increasing technical proficiency in the monitoring of social media for the express purpose of combating hate speech.
“We cannot allow our media environment to be overtaken by fake news and hate speech, especially on the social media,”
If you’ve been following the news, then you already know the definition for ‘hate speech’ and ‘treason’ are very vague in the Federal government play book. Journalists Abba Jalingo and Dadiyata were arrested from their homes without charge for ‘dissenting’ against the government, neither have been given a fair trial, the possibility of bail or even a fair hearing so their families know where they are.
But Mohammed isn’t just concerned about social media in his new crackdown, he also announced that the National Broadcasting Corporation would increase fines for radio and television stations from N500,000 to N5 million naira, a 1000% increase. Considering that Chief Raymond Dokpesi’s AIT was taken off the air a few months ago, in retaliation to accusations of government impropriety then you know the government acts first and ask questions later.
There is no question that the Nigerian government under President Buhari has had an atrocious track record, and this new threat, if followed through, will only worsen the government’s image. But it seems the government doesn’t seem to care.