Senator Mohammed Sani Musa, APC, has said his hate speech bill is not his way of protecting people in power.
According to him, he is not even doing it to safeguard himself as a legislator, instead, he is trying to protect Nigerians from social media misuse.
He added that if other countries can regulate their social media usage and make their online space safer for everyone, Nigeria can do the same.
His words, “There is nothing in my bill to show that government or anybody is trying to protect anyone in power. I am also not doing it to protect myself as a legislator; rather I am trying to protect Nigerians from the (social media) misuse.”
“If more advanced and complex countries than Nigeria can regulate their social media usage and make their online space more credible, what stops us from doing same? Some people simply want to attract attention to their sites in order to have advantage over others. They would take the picture of the President and that of a female minister and say they are getting married. The implication is that it affects the credibility of the country and that is what we want to stop. We are not doing this to gag the media. We want the media to be our partner. We want the media to see our shortcomings and expose them because they are facts. I don’t want the media to see this bill as if it is targeted at them.”
“Prior to the 2015 general elections, I was an active participant on Facebook. I freely used my Facebook page when Femi Fani-Kayode wrote a petition against me to the National Security Adviser, knowing that the Federal Government had given me a project then. My company was executing a project for the Federal Government. We didn’t default in that project neither did we do anything wrong. The client that gave us the project did not complain that we were not doing what we were supposed to do. However, when someone wanted us to compromise the whole process of the 2019 elections and we refused, they went to the Internet, captured things that I had over the years, and posted them. Another example is that of the President. He contested election from 2003 up to when he became the President. Some people came up with his pictures of 2003 where he was having a meeting at Oriental Hotels in Lagos and he was given N2bn. All the information was posted then on the Internet, knowing full well that they were not true. People were re-circulating false information. If it happens in a country that has this type of law in place, those messages will not go out. Also in 2015, I was incarcerated and it was the same social media that were talking about it. Some were saying the truth, others were posting falsehood. In 2019, someone said I had been bribed and given a slot to contest election into the Senate, knowing that I worked so hard to win my election after rigorous campaigns, even when the APC refused to give me the ticket which I duly won. That is part of the reason I’m saying that (Adams) Oshiomhole must go! I’m a freedom fighter. I want to see every right protected. I cannot then be a party to a situation that would subjugate some people and deny them their rights.”
“The outcry is a welcome development. This is the reason we present the bill because there must be engagement. One thing I kept saying about the bill is that we need the legislation. Even you, as a journalist, you need it more because this is your profession. You don’t have any other thing doing. You want at any time to see that whatever you present is authentic. Be sure you do background checks on news items before going to the press. You learnt while you were in school what ethical conduct should be in journalism. Nowadays, there is Internet. You go online, search for information on Google about whatever you want freely. Nobody is being gagged by this bill and nobody is being refused any opportunity to do his or her legitimate duty. I use the Internet more than any other person. Part of the things that spoilt my eyes was my incarceration by the Department of State Service. When I was released, I was always on the Internet because I was busy trying to see how I could read. If you ask anyone close to me, they will tell you that I spend 18 hours every day either on iPad or laptop. I’m always on the Internet and social media. It is not as if we are trying to come up with a bill or a legislation that would infringe the rights of the people. The Constitution has given Nigerians fundamental human rights. There is constitutional freedom of speech and participation. My bill will guide against falsification of information. Some people will know that certain information is false and still post it on the Internet. We are all victims of this thing. Some time ago, I saw Vanguard on the Internet and I thought it was the real Vanguard online. I saw the type of news that came out of it. I am sure if I asked the Vanguard management, they will say they didn’t know anything about the website. You (Vanguard online) cannot do what the other Vanguard website was doing because they would want to stand on the test of their credibility whenever you are called to come and defend what you have written.
If anyone has contrary view, you must have your facts right. We want to guard against all these things; that is why we say by the time we put penalty on these things, there will be sanity. Offenders will be taken to court. The court could decide to free the person if he or she was not found guilty. On the other hand, the offender could be found guilty of using untrue information on the Internet and impose punishment. I know certain aspects of our jurisprudence have taken care of issues that border on defamation and other things. This bill is entirely different from that. I have said it repeatedly that sending a message online is like switching on your light and you will see the speed at which it will go. Before you know it, the reading public is deceived. Unknown to many journalists, my bill is coming to protect their profession. That is how it is done in other parts of the world including the United States. Information dissemination is teleguided. I challenge whoever says that the social media is not regulated in the United States because I can produce some legislation from some states to show how they are guided. It is the same thing in Canada. Talking about the fundamental human rights and freedom, you can challenge freedom of speech in the two countries but they tend to guide these things. Malaysia too is regulating social media usage, Singapore is doing it; China has done it. Even Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are all doing the same thing. Go Kuwait and type ‘fuck you’ and the message will not go. Put any form of pornography, it won’t send.
Take a picture of a nude person and try to throw it into the Internet in all the countries that I have mentioned and you would see that they would not go out. Corporate bodies cannot be free if they are found guilty of an offence. Penalties range from light punishment of N5, 000 fine and N300, 000. If a senator decided to post something on his social media account knowing that such information is untrue and somebody challenged him and he is found guilty, he would pay N300, 000 fine. It is still in order. If I see a young man on the street committing similar offence and the court finds him guilty and he is asked to go and pay N10,000 or N5,000, by the time he sweats before he is able to pay, he will not do it again and it would be a deterrent to others.”
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