Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah of the ruling All People’s Congress party (APC), proposed a bill to the Senate, which makes it illegal to start any type of petition without swearing an affidavit that the content is true in a court of law. The bills also imposes two years in prison, or a fine of N2 million , or both, on anyone posting an “abusive statement” via text message, Twitter, WhatsApp, or any other form of social media. Based on this backdrop, INFORMATION NIGERIA has put together five things that would likely happen, if this bill meant to ‘gag social media’ becomes law.
1. Free speech which is embedded in Nigerian book is taken away.
2. Citizens’ (average ones) ability to call out the negativity and excesses of public office holders, is takes away that ability.
3. It undermines one of the core principles of Democracy, which is the ability of the people to have a say in how they are being govern. Should this bill become law, it kind of takes Nigeria back to dictatorial era.
4. Social media has become a medium through which the Nigerians participate actively in governance. If the bill becomes law, it will make most Nigerians apolitical.
5. Remember how Nigerians used Social media during the Goodluck Jonathan administration, this bill, if it becomes law would give this administration the opportunity to do what it likes because they would have succeeded in gagging the people.
Nigeria has a vibrant social media community, with the largest number of mobile phone users in Africa. Many Nigerian activists use social media for their campaigns. If this bill becomes law, this vibrant community would have become toothless.