In Nigeria, certain aspects of fundamental human rights of its citizens have been compromised at some point in time. As interesting as it is, free speech, like many other rights, became a debate in Nigeria and of course, this doesn’t go without questioning why? Why are there stakeholders who want Nigerians to watch what they say, how they say it and where they are saying it? While there are a number of stakeholders on this mission, minister of information, Lai Mohammed, is seemingly at the forefront of this agenda.
Only recently, the minister announced that there have been a raise to the fine on ‘Hate Speech’ by the regulated body responsible for the media and its content, The National Broadcast Commission, (NBC). Lai Mohammed announced that the fine had jumped from N500,000 to N5,000,000, an increase that shocked many Nigerians. The news erupted a debate on social media and the news media, as many wondered why so desperately, Lai Mohammed has championed this agenda against free speech.
Almost certainly, Nigerians were convinced that the increase in the fine was a witch hunt. The introduction of the bill was just a day before the #RevolutionNow protest last Wednesday, August 5th, which made Nigerians question how the media was supposed to be transparent in reporting the protest without being branded as perpetuating a hate speech.
Lai Mohammed hiked hate speech fine without consultation – NBC board. ?
Is this how an elder worthy of respect in the land should be "Laing"? You don't command respect, rather you earn it.
— AyeMojubar (@ayemojubar) August 13, 2020
Yesterday, however, social media was enraged again over the report that NBC was going to be following through with the amended document that prompted a fine of N5,000,000 on perpetrators of hate speech. The culprit was Nigeria Info Radio Broadcast Station following an interview on the radio station that featured the former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Obadiah Mailaifa. However, in a rebuttal to the news, NBC has said that Lai Mohammed acted solely on the modification of the fine on hate speech.
Now, this begs the question, why is the minister of information, Lai Mohammed so interested in what criticisms Nigerians have against this government and Nigeria as a whole especially as Nigerians are basically calling for the government to do better.
According to the new regulations that Lai Mohammed proposed, it shared that the reason why it is important for the increase is that, the media has promoted hate speech by giving a voice to people whose mission is to taunt the government. Lai shared that our culture does not support the insulting of those in authority which is conflicting because, half the time, for many Nigerians, they are just calling for the government to do better for Nigerians.
This will not be the first time for Lai, as he has been branded as a the face of a similar controversial bill that sparked rage last year. The social media bill was proposed by Lai Mohammed for the regulation of social media content. For the minister, this bill was to sanitize Nigerians from passive hate contents on social media targeted at the government. However, after being berated on several levels, the minister later shared that he was oblivious that such bill ever existed.
Lai Mohammed had also been earlier accused of being complicit in the harassment of Nigerians and the arrest of a journalist for the ‘crime of free speech’.
The Ministry of Information and Culture is the singular ministry outside the ministry of Justice tasked with protecting the rights of Nigerian citizens to access information, to give free speech, and to seek out the truth no matter the circumstances. However, it hasn’t seemed to be the case lately with Lai Mohammed. On social media, Nigerians are questioning the actions of Lai Mohammed in this update with many sharing their concern on how the minister single-handedly makes decisions that affects Nigeria without being held accountable for it.
Michael is a dynamic writer who is still exploring the nuances of life and being human. When I’m not writing, I’m out with friends or spending nice time alone watching movies or TV Shows.
Michael is available on Twitter and Instagram @TheMichaelFaya