he Nigerian senate has seen a bill seeking to regulate social media in the country scale through first reading.
The bill has been christened: “protection from internet falsehood and manipulations bill”, and as part of its provisions, there’s a 3-year prison sentence for offenders.
Mohammed Sani Musa, a senator representing Niger East, sponsored the bill. The proposed legislation was one of the 11 bills read for the first time on Tuesday.
Speaking with journalists in Abuja, the sponsor of the bill said Nigeria needs the legislation because it would protect its “fragile unity”.
“There has never been a time when Nigeria has been very fragile in terms of its unity than this period,” Musa said.
“It is not to stop people from going into the internet to do whatever they feel legitimately is okay to do but what we felt is wrong is for you to use the medium to document information that you know is false, just because you want to achieve your desirable interest.”
The senator also said the bill proposes a punishment of NGN 150 K fine or three years imprisonment for any offender.
“If it is a corporate organisation that refused to block that false information despite the fact that they have been alerted by authorities not to disseminate that information for public interest and they still go ahead and do it, refusing to do that blockage will be penalised between NGN 5 Mn to NGN 10 Mn for those organisations,” the senator said.
“For example, MTN, Glo, 9 mobile etc. which we use their platform in transmitting these information, if nothing is done, we fine them and you will see that it will be a deterrent to others.”
The recent development appears to be the latest in a series of discussions around “clipping the wings of social media in the country.”
Barely a week ago, Nigeria’s Minister for information and culture, Lai Mohammed, stated that the government was actively seeking ways to “sanitise social media.”
A bill similar to that of Senator Musa’s was actually proposed in the previous senate by the then-deputy majority leader of the Nigerian Senate, Bala Na’Allah. But that bill never scaled past first reading, owing in part, to outrage by Nigerians.
There’s a feeling, however, that something is up with the current intensified efforts to regulate social media.