The Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation and Other Related Matters Bill 2019 popularly known as the social media bill, is one of the bills before the Nigerian Senate led by Ahmed Lawan.
SaharaReporters gathered that the Nigerian Senate has concluded a “signed, sealed and delivered” plot to pass the social media bill once the it resumes plenary on September 15.
According to a top source in the Senate, who pleaded anonymity, the upper legislative arm is determined to pass the heinous bill despite the immense rejection by majority of Nigerians.
“They have already concluded plans to pass the bill. They are going to hide behind the COVID-19 issue and other national issues and pass the bill without delay. Their plan is to do it once they resume. It is already signed,” the source told SaharaReporters.
Recall that SaharaReporters reported that the social media bill was rejected by majority of Nigerians during the public hearing of the bill in March.
It will also be recalled that the bill had been rumored to be an “executive bill”, thus making its passage non-negotiable by the lawmakers, who have shown that they were willing to support anything from the presidency.
When asked whether the Senate’s plan had always been to pass the bill without considering public opinion, the source told SaharaReporters, “I am not sure about that, but they believe that Nigerians will accept it and move on the same way they have accepted the Broadcasting Code.”
The reviewed Broadcasting Code was recently passed into law for media organizations in Nigeria.
The reviewed code increased the fine for hate speech from N500,000 to N1m among other things and has already been used in sanctioning Nigeria Info, a radio station, following a recent interview in which a guest criticized the government on one of its popular programmes.
According to its objectives, the social media bill will enable the Nigeria Police Force to “detect, control and safeguard against coordinated inauthentic behaviour and other misuses of online accounts”.
The bill proposes up to N5m or three years imprisonment or both for defaulters.
All attempts to reach Senator Muhammed Sani Musa; sponsor of the social media bill, and Senator Opeyemi Bamidele; Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, on the issue proved abortive as both were unreachable on their official telephone lines.