Social Media Regulation: Our Only Hope Under Threat- By Akinrinlola Olumide

The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed recently informed Nigerians that President Muhammadu led administration has concluded plans to sanitise the social media through regulations; which of course, could be achieved through a proposed social media bill likely to be sent to the National Assembly soon.

The Minister said that the social media space is totally out of control. Though apart from complaints of fake news and hate speeches which he gave as government reasons, the Minister did not have any other convincing reasons that made the government to express determination for the regulation of the social media.

However, the Minister recently included in his reasons that some Nigerians had actually reached out to the government with demand that social media should be sanitised.

 ”Since we launched our reform of the broadcast industry, many Nigerians have reached out to us, demanding that we also look into how to sanitise the social media space. I can assure you that we are also working on how to inject sanity into the social media space, which today is totally out of control,” said Alhaji Lai Mohammed when he spoke to the press in Abuja recently.

This is not the first time Buhari -APC administration who benefited so much from the social media has attempted to regulate it. They had tried in the past but to no avail.  The questions every Nigerian should ask them now are: Why the desperation? Can the government be trusted with this new regulation? What is the government afraid of? Is this regulation in the interest of the jobless Nigerians? What are the merits and demerits of social media? Why is the new regulation targeted at social media users when the  law of slander, libel and sedition, are in place in Nigeria with such laws already invoked on some Nigerians?

Why Buhari – APC’s administration cannot be trusted

There is this political promise that normally follows Uncle Lai’s statement of the planned social media regulations. ”The planned regulation of the broadcast industry and the social media is not meant to gag the media or stifle free speech, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed”, always give this promise anytime he talks about social media regulation.

This statement in itself, is trickish and political. It is trickish just as the response of the tortoise who said it did not eat the porridge when asked about who opened the pot. He has also failed to tell us who were the Nigerians agitating for the regulations of social media as he claimed in one of his statements.

And it is also a political promise to say that the regulation was not targeted at the freedom of speech and the press because this same government had in the past denied several promises made to Nigerians while many others were not redeemed. 

This is a government that promised to uphold the rule of law but has flagrantly disobeyed several orders of the courts in Nigeria with two valid court orders on the release of Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare yet to be obeyed by DSS, an agent of the government.

Just recently, media report said that Nigeria was one of the focal points for discussion when over 200 journalists across Africa gathered in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, for a conference on free speech and freedom of expression in September.

The reporters met to discuss the renewed onslaught on journalists and activists across the continent. The report revealed that Nigeria records the worst attacks on journalists under Buhari since 34 years ago. So, Why should Nigerians trust this administration over the proposed social media regulation which they said was not meant to stifle freedom of speech and gag the press?

Why the desperation now?

The government is desperate now because the other two arms of government are totally under their control. They know this is the right time the bill would fly at the National Assembly so as to probably take over the social media which is the only area yet to be captured by them.

What is the government afraid of?

Hardly did many Nigerians know that the social media is a very strong platform where corruption, impunity, deception, infrastructural decay, and other misconduct of government officials and politicians are being exposed which the traditional media are always afraid of accomplishing, due to the fear for the power that-be.

Is this regulation in the interest of jobless Nigerians?

The answer is capital NO. It is my opinion that the regulation is in the interest of the government and like-minded politicians and not in the interest of the masses who are jobless. I expect this government to focus more on positive things and express desires in things that would reduce job losses and unemployment, curb insecurity and address excruciating hardship in the land.

Merits and demerits of social media?

Yes, of a truth, social media has its own merits and demerits. Apart from the quick dissemination of information, fast advertisement of product and services, Public relations and Image Laundry, the social media has also helped in the employment of jobless Nigerians through page monetization and many other opportunities of revenue generation through the social media. Though the demerits, ranging from anonymous accounts, fake news and inciting posts, are also there as some of its disadvantages, but all these could be curbed through tracking mechanism, with any culpable offender arrested and prosecuted in line with existing extant laws in Nigeria, instead of the proposed special regulations.

After all, the same administration had once arrested one Mr. Midat Joseph who was reportedly detained over a WhatsApp comment. Kemi Oluloyo was also arrested over her blog post that accused a pastor of Adultery. The same government also arrested Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare recently, accusing them of cybercrime offences in violation of section 24(1)(b) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention) Act. All of the above were arrested with the existing extant law in the country. So, why the desire for special regulations on social media?

The answer as to why the new regulation is specifically targeted at social media users when law of slander, libel and sedition and other extant laws are already in place in the country have been answered. Some of these laws have already been invoked against some Nigerians. There is no basis for special regulations except for political and selfish motive.

My people, you would agree with me that the only thing left for the government to achieve is to take over the media space especially the social media, after the security architecture of the country, the judiciary and legislative arms of government have been taken over by them.

Dear Nigerians, our only hope is now under threat..

Akinrinlola Olumide, a concerned Nigerian wrote in from Akure, Ondo State.

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