APC PVC contractor, Death-ridden NIS Recruitment Minister, Sex-shop

Assaulter:  Meet senators who support social media regulation


They have one thing in common and that is they have all been victims
of social media criticism at one time or the other in the past because
of the disgraceful roles played as minister and lawmakers which have
attracted barrage of criticisms from Nigerians. However, by providence
or calculation, they have all found themselves under the same roof in
the senate trying to enact a law to regulate the social media with the
Hate Speech and Social Media Bills that has attracted massive
criticism from multi-sectoral quarters in the country.
Mohammed Musa: Musa, the sponsor of the bill, has tried to convince
Nigerians of the need for such law. He has also assured that the
provisions of the bill were not meant to gag the media. Prior to
sponsoring the bill, Musa was exposed as benefitting from contracts by
the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Before the
general elections, it was discovered that Mr Musa is the Managing
Director of Activate Technologies Limited, whose company supplied the
machines used in printing the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs). Then, he
was the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Niger
East Senatorial district. The INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, who
confirmed that the lawmaker was indeed a contractor with the electoral
umpire, said Mr Musa’s political inclination will not affect the
commission. “No electoral officer will be compromised. The integrity
of the process is protected,” Prof Yakubu said.
Abba Moro: In his contribution during the debate, Moro said lawmakers
have in one way or the other been victims on social media. “I think
all of us here have been victims of the spread of falsehoods and the
manipulation of the internet has caused a lot of havoc to some of us.
And so, I rise to support this bill believing that it will protect the
society against unscrupulous elements within our society. “I think all
of us here acknowledge that where one’s right stops, another one’s
right begins. And therefore, I think that if we allow an unbridled
manipulation of internet and the spread of falsehood, the society will
be at the mercy of these elements. “If we leave this to continue the
way it is spreading, to take root in Nigeria, I feel that at a certain
point, we may find it difficult to come to terms with the damage that
it may do to the society,” he said. He added that fake news is
dangerous and the spread of falsehood is even more dangerous and
should be dealt with “before it develops into a canker-worm that will
consume the rest of the society.” Sen Moro, who was a Minister of
Interior, has been criticised on the internet for many years. During
his term as a minister in 2014, he supervised a poorly planned
recruitment exercise by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) on March
15, which caused the death of about 14 applicants across Nigeria. The
victims died in stampedes caused by the poor organisation of the
recruitment tests in Abuja and other cities. Apart from the deaths of
the applicants, Sen Moro and others are also believed to have
defrauded the applicants of hundreds of millions of naira and were
prosecuted by the anti-graft agency, EFCC. Many Nigerians online
called for his sack as a minister and criticized his candidacy despite
his corruption probe.
Elisha Abbo: The Adamawa senator became popular after PREMIUM TIMES
published a video showing him slapping a woman in a shop in Abuja. Mr
Abbo was criticized online by many Nigerians, who also demanded his
prosecution. On Tuesday, while supporting the bill, he described
internet falsehood as a cancer that could consume the nation. “As a
matter of fact, the issue of fake news, if it is not regulated… It is
a cancer waiting to consume all of us. A situation where someone will
sit down in the corner of his room, conceive a lie, develop a lie,
spread that lie and in some cases, even syndicate the distribution of
these lies. He posts it from the corner of his room and in a matter of
minutes, it’s been read in America, in England, in Australia. A lie
from a corner of a room. Even conventional media that are regulated by
government are suffering from these kinds of falsehood. So, I am
supporting this bill holistically and I stand up again to say that
this bill is good and if we cannot regulate spread of falsehood, it
will consume all of us tomorrow,” he said. During his speech, Sen Abbo
did not link his support for the bill to the criticisms he received
online for his action. Although Abbo publicly apologised for his
action, he pleaded not guilty when he was charged to court. The Senate
also set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the matter. The
committee has done so and submitted its report but the Senate is yet
to consider the report.
Ibrahim Gobir: Gobir was the first to support the bill. In his
contribution, he complained about how anyone could fabricate false
information that could tarnish the image of a person. “To be candid in
Nigeria today, somebody can just sit down somewhere in a little room
and begin to spread fake news and before you know it, it has damaged
you completely. “And I’m telling you, if any wrong information is sent
out, out of 100 people, at least (some) will take it to the Senate and
because of that, there is need to regulate it and make sure that we
punish offenders. I support this motion and I think that it should be
given expedited passage,” he said.
Although Gobir has maintained a relatively low profile in the Senate,
he was a victim of internet outrage when he opposed the Gender
Equality Bill introduced in the eighth Senate. Gobir and some other
lawmakers rejected the bill arguing that it was both anti-Islamic and
unconstitutional. The bill was eventually rejected by the Senate
amidst criticisms from Nigerians.
Bala Na’Allah: In his contribution, Ma’Allah said he has been
“vindicated by the bill.” This is not unrelated to the fact that he
sponsored a similar bill in the previous Senate which sparked outrage
across the country, and was later withdrawn. His bill titled “A Bill
for an Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and other Matters Connected
therewith” sought to compel critics to accompany their petitions with
sworn court affidavit, or face six months imprisonment upon
conviction. It also sought to punish any person who unlawfully uses,
publishes or cause to be published, any petition, complaint not
supported by a duly sworn affidavit. The bill passed the second
reading before President Muhammadu Buhari distanced himself from it,
saying he was committed to free speech. The lawmakers were forced to
withdraw the bill. Na’Allah was criticized by many Nigerians for
sponsoring the bill.
Executive Complicit: Although the social media bill was proposed by a
lawmaker, many Nigerians believe it has the tacit support of the
Executive. Officials of the federal government, particularly the
information minister, Lai Mohammed, have repeatedly insisted on the
need to regulate social media.
“But our concern has to do with the abuse of social media by those who
are bent on spreading fake news and hate speech, and the dangers
inherent in that are for our national peace and unity. We have no
hidden agenda.
“As I have said many times, no responsible government will sit by and
allow fake news and hate speech to dominate its media space because of
the capacity of this menace to exploit our national fault lines to set
us against each other and trigger a national conflagration,” Mr
Mohammed said earlier this month.
Mohammed had earlier said the Buhari administration “would look to
Singapore and other countries with social media regulations to
formulate a coherent policy for Nigeria.” Premium Times has since
learnt that the social media bill proposed by the lawmaker was largely
copied from existing law in Singapore. Although the president had
distanced himself from the former bill and said he will not take away
the freedom of speech from Nigerians, he has however, been quiet about
this one – which is not to say he is not unaware of the bill. One
justifiable reason for his response is the fact that he has also been
a ‘victim’ of internet bashing especially before the election and
after his re-election. In late 2018, there were claims that the
president died during his medical trip and was loned by a Jubril from
Sudan. Mr Buhari had to come out and refute the claims. On several
occassions, he has been bashed on social media for either goofing or
talking out of point at international gatherings. Only recently, there
were claims on social media that the president was getting married to
the Minister of Humanitarian and Disaster Management, Sadiya Umar.
Nigerians went as far as posting wedding invitation cards for the
wedding. Having passed second reading, the lawmakers are expected to
hold a public hearing where stakeholders and interested parties are
expected to air their views about the bill.
Culled from: PREMIUM TIMES

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