25 January, 2020

Nigerian social media Bill under fire as the first lady suggests emulating China

Nigerians are outraged after Aisha Buhari said that the country should adopt China’s strict methods of regulating social media.

New rules would criminalize insulting the government online with three years in jail

Activists are rallying in Nigeria after the country’s first lady proposed using China as a model for

 how to control citizens’ social media use.

The social media Bill going through parliament is called The Protection

 from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Bill prohibits making statements 

on social media that are “Likely to be prejudicial to national security” and

 “Those which may diminish public confidence” in the West African country’s government.

‘The last hope’

Mr. Adeyanju, who has previously been arrested under charges including “Defamation” 

for protesting against the police and military, said social media is

 “The last hope of the common man in Nigeria”.

Journalist and former government employee Ohimai Amaize agreed,

 saying the social media Bill is an attempt to shut down the voices of

 those “Critical of the excesses of the Muhammadu Buhari presidency”.

The bill, which was initially thrown out following a barrage of attacks, resurfaced suddenly a fortnight ago, going through two readings in just two weeks. It is a very extensive piece of legislation, which covers a slew of possible wrongdoings, including the publication or presentation of material deemed to stir up ethnic hatred. It also takes aim at written or visual acts seen as threatening, abusive, insulting or offensive.

Death or a life sentence

The proposed law says that any person who commits an offense of the kind described could be jailed for life. If the actions are found to have caused loss of life, the punishment can be death by hanging. However, there are indications that the part of the bill dealing with the death sentence could be removed, according to recent comments made by Senator Abdullahi, in which he recognized strong resistance. ”Given the high respect which we have for Nigerians, we will make amendments to the death penalty aspect that most Nigerians objected to […] Clearly, from the conversations, Nigerians agree that we have a problem today as a result of hate speech which has fuelled so many killings and violence,” the senator said.

“The truth is, this current government understands the power and influence of social media.

 President Buhari rode on the wave of this same social media to become president in 2015. 

He knows the power that comes with the territory and he doesn’t want

 to be put under the scrutiny of public opinion,” Mr. Amaize said.

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