Senator Sani Musa is the senator representing Niger East senatorial district in Niger state. He is also the Chairman of the Senate Services Committee. Right now, he is contesting for the position of the national party Chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
Senator Sani Musa came under public scrutiny in 2019 when he proposed the ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill’, popularly known as the Social Media Bill that was heavily criticized and stopped at the public hearing stage.
This conversation with Nairametrics started from there:
You are contesting for the position of the Party national Chairman of the APC. In 2019, you sponsored the ‘Protection from internet falsehood and manipulations bill’ popularly called the social media bill that was defeated at the public hearing stage. Right now as you contest for this position, different CSOs have opposed it saying a man who tried to gag social media and free speech should not be allowed to be in control of the party because then it will show where the ruling party is tilting towards. What is your take on that?
Unfortunately, that is not true. The people saying we want to gag the press did not read this bill.
Are you saying you still support this bill?
I still support the bill. The United Kingdom, Canada and France are all regulating the social media, what do you say to that? We are not seeking to regulate people; we are seeking to regulate intermediaries so the intermediaries will come with a standard and those that subscribe to their platform should be able to abide by those standards.
So do you think it’s the wording of the bill that’s the problem?
It’s not the wording of the bill. The few people that were very vocal, inciting people against the bill did not read the bill. We need that bill. Look at the insecurity in the country today. If we had social media that is well regulated, certain things will not happen.
You think social media is the cause of insecurity in the country?
It’s not the cause, but it’s a platform people misuse and disseminate wrong information.
We already have libel laws and the cybercrime act that addresses these issues.
Laws are there to be reviewed at every opportunity. You cannot say the UAE is gagging the press or are stopping people from using the internet, or say that you cannot use the internet in China.
You do know that the countries you are mentioning are not democracies sir? China is not a democracy, neither is the UAE
You cannot tell me they are not democracies. Canada is a democracy and they are regulating the media space. I can prove that to you.
They are not. What about the laws there already like the cybercrime act and libel laws?
If the laws are not effective, it’s always good to bring another law that will be effective. The social media networks like Facebook and Twitter and the ISPs that people use their data are the ones we want to regulate so they can regulate the people on their platform
Despite seeing the kind of opposition the bill got, you still intend to put it forward. Don’t you think you should look at the part people are unhappy about?
A committee is still working on that bill and I believe those areas that need to be looked into, will be looked into.
Let’s talk about the recent constitutional amendment process and the bills concerning women that were thrown out. Women have been out there protesting and because of that, the House of Representatives has agreed to reconsider three of those bills but the Senate hasn’t. Why is that?
You can’t say that. Let me tell you, for every legislation that you are trying to bring forward, you must articulate and lobby. Every bill you have to ask, are they in tandem with our culture and our environment? I support affirmative action for women. But if we are talking about gender, you have to define it, what kind of activities are we talking about? For example, in northern Nigeria and our culture, you cannot be talking about the LGBTQ or things like that to come to Nigeria and have a form.
The bills were about affirmative action, not LGBTQ.
The bill on affirmative action was not defined.
What about the bill about being able to confer citizenship on the foreign husband of a Nigerian woman?
If you look at our borders today, they are very porous. And we don’t want to give room to uncertainties especially in terms of insecurity.
Are you saying the women are going to contribute to insecurity through marriage?
No, not contribute to insecurity but there are ‘arrangee things.’
For ordinary Nigerians, this is a very precarious time; there’s blackout all over, diesel and gas prices are skyrocketing, fuel queues are still there, aviation fuel is scarce, Nigerians are suffering. The Senate hasn’t spoken about this. What is going on and what do you think we need to do to solve these problems that are able to ground the entire country’s economy?
If you say the Senate hasn’t done anything, you are wrong. It’s not every working of the Senate that is in the public eye. I’m a member of both the appropriation and finance committees and I know what it has taken us to do the right thing. We are engaging over 400 agencies of government over issues to do with revenue generation. Look, we are still importing petroleum products. In the past 16 years, nothing has been done in the petroleum industry but with the coming of this administration, we have been able to pass the PIA.
That is on hold, isn’t it?
It’s not on hold; just the subsidy part of it that is on hold. The rest of the implementation is still going on in phases. And the reason why there should be subsidies for now is because the Federal Government has just re-awarded the contract of the rehabilitation of the refineries we have. Not until when those come on stream can the subsidies be taken off. For me, I would love to see where we can support the Dangote refinery to come on stream.
It is being supported; the government has a stake in it. What other support are you talking about?
It’s not just about giving funding. It’s whatever they need to do to support that project to come to life.
I am asking what else the government needs to do. The government has been heavily supporting the project.
It’s not enough. What I’m talking about is that there are certain things the government needs to pump in. We are talking now about putting up about 3trillion to subsidize our petroleum products.
If you are talking about supporting the Dangote refinery, what about Modular refineries?
It is a good development if we can get it right. The PIA has also given opportunities for investors to come. We have to liberalize that sector whether we like it or not.
When the fuel scarcity started, it was about contaminated fuel being imported. Is the Senate going to have a hearing to find out who the culprits are to make sure this doesn’t happen again and to address the fuel queues so we don’t have them anymore?
As I’m talking to you, at the committee level, they are working on this and investigating to find out where the problem is and to make sure this doesn’t happen again.