Nigerians have begun to protest against the Social Media Bill as it passed second reading. The Bill, which was reintroduced in the first week of November 2019, reportedly has the same contents with the Protection from Online Falsehood Bill of Singapore. The similarities have made some Nigerians mock the lawmakers for allegedly copying the Singapore Bill.
The Nigerian bill is titled, ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019’ and was reportedly sponsored by Mohammed Sani Musa, Senator representing Niger East Senatorial District. The bill seeks to regulate social media use in Nigeria and tame hate speech, but it seems some Nigerians are not in support.
The belief among some Nigerians is that the passage of the Social Media Bill is the government’s method of turning the country into an authoritarian state, but Senator Mohammed said in a Nairametrics’ report that the legislation was needful because it would protect the country’s “fragile unity”.
Why Nigerians are angry
Government defines what’s false: The Social Media Bill doesn’t have well-defined guidelines as to what’s false and true. This gives the government prerogative to determine which statement – written or spoken – is false or true.
In the Nigerian bill, “A person must not do any act in or outside Nigeria in order to transmit in Nigeria a statement knowing or having reason to believe that;
- it is false statement of fact, and the transmission of the statements in Nigeria is likely to be prejudicial to the security of Nigeria or any part of Nigeria. Also, be prejudicial to public health and public safety.
This makes Nigerians believe the bill gives the government authority to act as judge & jury at the same time in a matter against the state. The author of a statement adjudged to be false is liable to a monetary fine depending on the level of offence or 3-years imprisonment or both.
Right to block access to internet: In the bill, there is ‘Access Blocking Order’. The Nigerian government, through the law enforcement department, can block any citizen from accessing the internet. The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) will be ordered by law enforcement department to switch internet access off.
This means if a group of people is believed to be transmitting what the government defines as a false statement, the NCC will instruct the network providers, on behalf of security forces, to disable access to the internet of the group or region. Telecommunications companies which don’t comply with government’s order risk N10 million fine for every day.
This section of the bill scares Nigerians because shutting down the internet has been one of the weapons used by some African leaders who did not find comment against them favourable. In 2018, the Cameroonian government had shut down internet connection in its anglophone region (Cameroon is divided into two regions; Anglophone; English speaking region and francophone; French-speaking region) on two separate occasions for total 240 days within two years.
Process of getting back internet: For those whose access to the internet is cut off, they are expected to take their grievance to the High Court, but that’s after they have applied to the Law Enforcement Department to vary or cancel the block out.
Copy & Paste of Singapore bill: The Nigerian lawmakers are being mocked for copying the same content on Singapore’s ‘Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act 2019’. Some Nigerians believe that this is an act of plagiarism.
What Nigerians are saying
The social media bill content violates the human right to freedom of speech and information access.
— EiE Nigeria (@EiENigeria) November 22, 2019
The "Hate Speech" Bill is Demonic.
— G'IYAZ (@Giyaz_YZ) November 22, 2019
Good morning ! Hope all is well. Well it’s not. If the social media bill passes law enforcement agencies have the right to shut down internet at any time.This means if we are shouting about something our government is doing.They can TURN OFF our internet! #SayNoToSocialMediaBill pic.twitter.com/5CDw33djsx
— Bolanle Olukanni (@bolanleolukanni) November 22, 2019
Incase you don't understand the legal jargons. Government wants to off our internet if we tweet "This Buhari sef…" They want to send people to jail for "false information" that's not explicitly defined. That is, they decide what is false. Biko,#SayNoToSocialMediaBill
— Baba Folarin (@That_IjebuBadoo) November 22, 2019
This is not a matter of belonging to APC, PDP or SDP.
It doesn't matter whether you are a Yoruba, Hausa, or Igbo.
It has nothing to do with you being a Muslim, Christian or Idol worshipper.
This is a war against you & I.
This is a war against our freedom.#SayNoToSocialMediaBill pic.twitter.com/eTSnv6BcRP
— B h a d o o s k y (@BhadmusAkeem) November 22, 2019
— Don-PaBLO (@PaBLO1759) November 22, 2019
This man is incompetent, irresponsible, and unfit to be a senator. He is an enemy of the Nigerian people, and clearly has no positive interest in this country.
— Olumide O.G ? (@OlumideOG) November 22, 2019
It’s very obvious that the Social Media Bill is motivated by the discomfort experienced by corrupt senators, their plans to protect their self-interest & continue their corrupt acts.
This is a war against our freedom.
This is a war against our Power.
— Tife? (@Tife_fabunmi) November 22, 2019
Social media is one of the only places in Nigeria where you can freely speak your mind, but now they want to take that away.
Not surprised senator who slapped that young woman is among those supporting this bill.
— Pastor Ola ✨ (@Biisi96) November 22, 2019
Can we organise a protest?
Is there a way we can make our voices heard? #SayNoToSocialMediaBill
— 1 Milli Dolapo (@TheIfedolapo) November 22, 2019
On Singapore similarities
— Ebuka Obi-Uchendu (@Ebuka) November 22, 2019
Buharists are so pathetically incompetent to the extent that they went and copied an anti free speech bill from Singapore
They pirated a tyrannical bill from Singapore to muzzle free speech in Nigeria
No originality even in tyranny
What a shame! #SayNoToSocialMediaBill
— nafiiu (@nafeezi) November 22, 2019
We didn’t see the infrastructural development of Singapore to copy
We didn’t see their response to Natural disasters such as flooding to copy
Education there is not a thing of emulation for us
— A D E G B O Y E G A (@lefthandedDavid) November 22, 2019
The Bill is a replication of Singapore’s Protection from Online Falsehoods & Manipulation Act 2019 signed into law in June.
Meanwhile, Singapore is a very bad example to copy from, it ranks 151 out of 180 in @RSF_en 'World Press Freedom Index'.#SayNoToSocialMediaBill pic.twitter.com/bpz36IhDTA
— EiE Nigeria (@EiENigeria) November 22, 2019
Just so you know, Nigeria's Social Media Bill is copied word for word from Singapore's Protection from Online Falsehoods & Manipulation Act, 2019. #SayNoToSocialMediaBill
— Uduak 'Petite_awesomeness' Ekpedeme (@Uduak_Ekpedeme) November 22, 2019
Nigeria, pick a damn hustle and stop being a plagiarist. This senate has to be the most insanely dubious set of sold out leaders we've ever had. Imagine they had to copy the Singapore bill word for word!
— the FIRE Educationist (@Leediiah) November 22, 2019
Senator: Computer, change "Communication" to "Transmission", and "Singapore" to "Nigeria".
— G! (@gbenga_sadik) November 22, 2019
Don't also forget to add that as of June 2018, Singapore's population stood at 5.64 million.
Nigeria, a country of over 200 million people is copying a bill from a Country of 5.64 million people(lesser than Lagos population figure's) .
— ? Obong Ekpe ? (@Ody_johnson) November 22, 2019
They go to the abroad to copy the wicked side and neglect the good part, Singapore has good roads, electricity and good health, social infrastructure… Nigeria Govt which of this have you done? None and you are quick to want pass one stupid bill into law #SayNoToSocialMediaBill
— Big Tymer (@sivosnoop) November 22, 2019