It does feel like we are in an endless hamster wheel with the Nigerian Senate. Pressing issues that affect the entire country like the Drug Control Bill that went into a second reading stagnate while laws that have no tangible way of enforcement and in some cases even violate enshrined human rights are entertained by the Senate in a bid to curry favour with the presidency. That can be the only reason why Tuesday, the Senate reintroduced its ”Protection fro Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill’, first introduced during the last government to regulate the use of social media in the country.
Considering the senate has been largely quiet when political commentators like Dadiyata, Abba Jalingo and Omoyele Sowore were all arrested by the DSS for alleged acts of dissent or treason, it is disheartening that they are choosing to reintroduce the Bill now, as a way to justify the infringements on the rights of these journalists and activists. Mohammed Sani Musa, the sponsor of the bill has suggested he is pushing for the bill as a way to ‘curb fake news’ and not an attempt to gag the free speech of citizens.
“If today, you can disseminate information of your President, taking a picture of the President and putting it in an invitation card, giving false information of your President, the office is the highest seat in the land. It is sacrosanct. It is something we cannot see it as anyhow information and you think that is just part of freedom of information or there is liberalisation of Social Media so you can do anything. As far as I am concerned it is wrong.”
Musa proposes that anyone caught violating the new Bill be charged a sum of N150,000 as a fine or be charged with a crime and sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison. He also wants the new bill to target private institutions via which the alleged fake news is disseminated, suggesting a fine of 15 – 10 million naira for any defaulters.
There are as yet, no tangible explanation for how the nation will be policed,