Nigerians react to Social Media Bill, mock lawmakers over similarity with Singapore

Nigerians have begun to protest against the Social Media Bill as it passed second reading. The Bill, which was reintroduced in the first week of November 2019, reportedly has the same contents with the Protection from Online Falsehood Bill of Singapore. The similarities have made some Nigerians mock the lawmakers for allegedly copying the Singapore Bill.

The Nigerian bill is titled, ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019’ and was reportedly sponsored by Mohammed Sani Musa, Senator representing Niger East Senatorial District. The bill seeks to regulate social media use in Nigeria and tame hate speech, but it seems some Nigerians are not in support.

The belief among some Nigerians is that the passage of the Social Media Bill is the government’s method of turning the country into an authoritarian state, but Senator Mohammed said in a Nairametrics’ report that the legislation was needful because it would protect the country’s “fragile unity”.

Why Nigerians are angry 

Government defines what’s false: The Social Media Bill doesn’t have well-defined guidelines as to what’s false and true. This gives the government prerogative to determine which statement – written or spoken – is false or true.

In the Nigerian bill“A person must not do any act in or outside Nigeria in order to transmit in Nigeria a statement knowing or having reason to believe that;

  • it is false statement of fact, and the transmission of the statements in Nigeria is likely to be prejudicial to the security of Nigeria or any part of Nigeria. Also, be prejudicial to public health and public safety.

This makes Nigerians believe the bill gives the government authority to act as judge & jury at the same time in a matter against the state. The author of a statement adjudged to be false is liable to a monetary fine depending on the level of offence or 3-years imprisonment or both.

Right to block access to internet: In the bill, there is ‘Access Blocking Order’. The Nigerian government, through the law enforcement department, can block any citizen from accessing the internet. The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) will be ordered by law enforcement department to switch internet access off.

This means if a group of people is believed to be transmitting what the government defines as a false statement, the NCC will instruct the network providers, on behalf of security forces, to disable access to the internet of the group or region. Telecommunications companies which don’t comply with government’s order risk N10 million fine for every day.

This section of the bill scares Nigerians because shutting down the internet has been one of the weapons used by some African leaders who did not find comment against them favourable. In 2018, the Cameroonian government had shut down internet connection in its anglophone region (Cameroon is divided into two regions; Anglophone; English speaking region and francophone; French-speaking region) on two separate occasions for total 240 days within two years.

Process of getting back internet: For those whose access to the internet is cut off, they are expected to take their grievance to the High Court, but that’s after they have applied to the Law Enforcement Department to vary or cancel the block out.

Copy & Paste of Singapore bill: The Nigerian lawmakers are being mocked for copying the same content on Singapore’s ‘Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act 2019’. Some Nigerians believe that this is an act of plagiarism.

What Nigerians are saying 

The social media bill content violates the human right to freedom of speech and information access.

On Singapore similarities 

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