Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, has broken his silence on the controversial social media bill.
The ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation 2019’ bill seeking to regulate Nigeria’s social media space recently passed a second reading at the Nigerian Senate.
Since the social media bill passed second reading, politicians, key opinion leaders, and the Nigerian populace have expressed that the bill be is a threat to Nigerians’ freedom of speech and the nation’s democracy.
The Senate had re-introduced the bill sponsored by Mohammed Sani Musa, senator representing Niger East Senatorial District. [The Cable]
In a series of tweets on Monday, December 2, 2019, Keyamo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), lamented that critics cannot differentiate the Social media bill from the hate speech bill.
While maintaining that no reasonable person will support death sentence for hate speech, Keyamo maintained that it is not proper for individuals to come online to say something totally untrue that can put other lives in danger without some kind of penal consequence.
“Civil suits on defamation of character only take care of personal insults. I don’t subscribe to punishment for that. But you cannot come online to deliberately post false stories, in the guise of ‘freedom of speech’, that can set the nation ablaze without some penal consequences,” he added.
On what can be done to put to rest people’s fears, Keyamo explained that the real agitation should be for parliament, in line with S.36 (12) of the 1999 Constitution, to clearly define the types of false and insensitive posts that would attract penal consequences.
By so doing, Keyamo believes that the government would not abuse the bill, and everyone’s activities will be checked to ensure societal normalcy.