The Social Media Bill: The Nays! Have It
SIR: In Nigeria today, you will need to borrow some lines from the beatitudes to abide peacefully with some public officeholders around. For some National Assembly members, the beatitudes will fail you unless you back it up with some fruits of the spirit. Sadly, in some cases these two will do nothing and at that point, the heavens will attest to the fact that your rage is well deserved perhaps some preachers will liken it to holy anger.
Apologies to those who may not fully comprehend some terms here, please bear with me. Our senators made me go spiritual to comprehend some sinister plot.
I got my well-deserved rage when I learnt through social media that the Senate had carried out the second reading of “A bill for an act to prohibit frivolous petitions and matters connected therewith” sponsored by Senator Ibn Na’Allah, an APC senator from Kebbi State. Permit me to quote from the bill
“Where any person through text message, tweets, WhatsApp or through any social media posts any abusive statement knowing same to be false with intent to set the public against any person and group of persons, an institution of government or such other bodies established by law shall be guilty of an offense and upon conviction, shall be liable to an imprisonment for two years or a fine of N2,000,000.00 or both fine and imprisonment.”
Nigerians, of course, won’t be quick to forget that we have on different occasion watched our lawmakers throw punches, abuse themselves and tear the clothes we got for them through their wardrobe allowances on live Television without been fined or given jail terms.
We might just be forced to wonder if we are heading in the right direction, bearing in mind that the sixth senate passed the freedom of information (FOI) bill and now the eight senate is working on this anti-social media bill, which for all intent and purposes is an attempt to gag the public. It is not only sad that this bill bears the looks of what was drafted from North Korea, it is sad that a good number of our senators did enjoy some unholy romance with some social media Kingpins (directly or indirectly) as they triumphantly rode through the electioneering process to the hallowed red chambers. Then they enjoyed the praises and the affronts. All of a sudden, they now see these kingpins and their social media platforms as “outfits that could destroy the nation’s democracy.” Chai Dairis God o!
The handful supporters of this bill outside the red chambers (if at all there are) will be of the opinion that social media spreads false rumour. I will also be a hypocrite like some public office holders to deny that this argument is true, but we already have laws in place for libel and character assassination. We don’t need this 20th century approach to a 21st century issue. The times are far apart.
In common sense law, there is something called the repugnancy test, which can be likened to the public perception on an issue. The trending Hastag #NoToSocialMediaBill says it all and it will be time and energy saving for our senators to channel their energy into other issues.
A good economic bill will be appreciated by Nigerians in a time when the economy is ailing and Nigeria’s stock exchange NSE alongside that of Egypt and Zimbabwe are ranked the worse in the world.
Asimi Samuel Oyimafu, CEO & Co-founder Young People for African Development – YPAD
Follow me on twitter @SamDOptimist