Why Nigeria’s “social media bill” is a joke

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In case you do not have the gist already, a member of the Nigerian Senate, Bala Ibn Na’allah, has proposed a bill titled “A Bill for an Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and other Matters Connected therewith”. According to newspaper sources, a section of the bill reads:

“Where any person through text message, tweets, WhatsApp or through any social media posts any abusive statement knowing same to be false with intent to set the public against any person and group of persons, an institution of government or such other bodies established by law shall be guilty of an offence and upon conviction, shall be liable to an imprisonment for two years or a fine of N2,000,000.00 or both fine and imprisonment.”

It is interesting that the Nigerian Senate, known for its legendary lethargy in passing bills that bring actual development to the country, have seen this bill through two readings within two weeks of its introduction. This super zeal immediately smacks of an attempt at shutting down government critics on social media. Don’t we already have We already laws that address defamation, slander and similar matters?

Nigeria Social Media

But law is not my forte. However, as a tech person who is active on social media, I immediately find the quoted section of this bill amusing. Every time any government attempts to stifle freedom of speech, the result is that people go underground and speak from there. If there is one place where it is easy to go underground, it is online, especially social media. Those who wish to criticise the government, they will simply open anonymous social media handles and ride on. How does the government want to chase these ghosts?

The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is wasting time and tax payers money pushing this bill – or at least the section that addresses social media.

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7 comments

  1. We all know the bill will never become law. Not in this dispensation. The constitution itself guarantee freedom of opinion and freedom of expression inasmuch it is with intent to harm.

    1. you mean without intent to harm. I think this part of the bill is counterproductive and will not be part of the law when it is passed

  2. I really think we need to measure how many self indulgent bills go through the NASS versus bills that will benefit the country.

    There are already libel laws in place that many have employed for defamation and slander (perceived or real) in social media. WhatsApp messages, seriously? If it is a private discussion with a friend made public I can’t see how they’re going to prosecute that one.

    This bill is aimed at the likes of you and me, not them. I guess they read this bill so they can avoid the FoI, PIB and deregulation and subsidy removal discussions because, God forbid, those ones are too hard.

    1. You’ve missed the point – what significant thing will this bill bring, if passed, that isn’t covered by existing laws?

      The irony is that many of those in the NASS employed the means they want to stifle during the elections – many of those full page ads are still available online for us to see.

      Fact is, there are more important things that they should be focussing on at the moment – this bill isn’t one of them.

  3. Bunch of inept buffoons,just take a look at a pix of the originator of the bill on suit and tie,Sen Na’alla and you won’t be surprised how he came up with this..

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