The Nigerian Senate

Nigerians have been reacting angrily to a draft bill been discussed in the Senate which proposes a framework and system of regulation, control and conduct; the use of the internet and various social platforms in the transmission of information in Nigeria.

The bill which scaled second reading during plenary in the Senate, on Wednesday, was sponsored by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa from Kaduna State.

Social media users on the microblogging platform, Twitter have been using #SayNoToSocialMediaBill to campaign against the proposal.

According to Senator Musa, the bill is not an attempt to stifle free speech or dissenting views; it is rather an opportunity to address a growing threat which, if left unchecked, can cause serious damage in our polity and disrupt peaceful coexistence.”

He stated that much as the internet has numerous benefits, it is also used for the purpose of manipulating information and spreading falsehoods.

Speaking in support of the bill, Senators Abba Moro (PDP, Benue South) and Elisha Abbo (PDP, Adamawa North) described the introduction of the bill as timely, while a lawmaker, Chimaroke Nnamani, who spoke against the bill, was cut short by a point of order raised by Senator Ibn Na’Allah who quoted the provision of Section 39(1)(3) of the 1999 as amended to justify the introduction of the bill by the Senate.

Section 39(1) of the 1999 Constitution provides that “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information without interference.”

Nigerian celebrities, media influencers, Human Rights bodies, and others who condemned the move said it’s an attempt to muzzle free speech.

A civil group promoting good governance and public accountability in Nigeria, Enough is Enough (EiE) wrote on twitter using the handle @EiENigeria “When the government get to play judge & jury over what is fake & what is true, their power is sweeping & the effect chilling. Nigerians #SayNoToSocialMediaBill!”

@Biisi96 “Social media is one of the only places in Nigeria where you can freely speak your mind, but now they want to take that away. Not surprised senator who slapped that young woman is among those supporting this bill. He felt the power of social media. #SayNoToSocialMediaBill
@OgbeniDipo “Any Senator who does not come out OPENLY to #SayNoToSocialMediaBill is part of the useless plot. Citizens should be able to know where the legislator representing them stand on issues. Ask your SENATOR to come out boldly and state their stance on this issue.”
@bolanleolukanni “Good morning! Hope all is well. Well, it’s not. If the social media bill passes law enforcement agencies have the right to shut down internet at any time. This means if we are shouting about something our government is doing. They can TURN OFF our internet! #SayNoToSocialMediaBill
@Zaddy_nomso “If we protest on ground they call the Police to Shoot us, we complain on Social Media & now they want to Shut Us Down. You cant kill us on ground & shut us down on Social Media #SayNoToSocialMediaBill
@volqx “As a social media influencer , you owe no one any obligation as to what you support or challenge . Notwithstanding, you not concerned about a social media bill just proves you not understanding your role yet, especially if social media is your 9-5 . #SayNoToSocialMediaBill
@volqx “Senator Elisha said “someone sits in his room & makes a post and in a matter of minutes it’s read in America”. His fear of foreign involvement cannot be overemphasised, social media is that one chance we have at telling the world the ills of our society. #SayNoToSocialMediaBill