A security expert, Mr Abayomi Mumuni, on Tuesday threw his weight behind the Hate Speech Bill and the Social Media Bill, but urged the National Assembly to moderate the sanctions being proposed for offenders.
Mumuni, also an All Progressives’ Congress (APC) chieftain, said in a statement that the bills would curtail provocative utterances and spread of fake news in the Nigerian cyberspace.
He said that the bills would have been unnecessary had Nigerians taken caution in their use of the social media, adding that freedom of speech should not be used to cause crisis in the society.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the ‘Prohibition of Hate Speech Bill’, otherwise called the hate speech bill, was being sponsored by Sen. Sabi Abdullahi, while the ‘Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill’, called the social media bill, is the brainchild of Sen. Mohammed Sani Musa.
The social media bill passed the second reading in the National Assembly on Wednesday, November 20, 2019.
“ln the absence of decorum, peace won’t reign. We should not throw the bills out because it has come to regulate the way we use the social media.
“The Bill is necessary, given how most Nigerian social media users throw caution to the wind, creating palpable tension and making decorum impossible in the society.
“What are the contents of the Bill? What is controversial about it?
“I would not be surprised if many of those who kick against it do not have an idea of what the bill is about,’’ the security expert said.
Mumuni, a former Lagos gubernatorial candidate of the defunct CPC, said that rather than condemn the Bills and their sponsors, Nigerians should have called for its regulation.
According to him, “what we should advocate for is the regulation of the bill so it will only cater for glaring cases of hate speech and not serve as a mechanism for witch-hunting perceived oppositions or eliminating critical engagements on public policy’’.
Speaking further, the security expert said that developed countries such as France, Singapore, Malaysia, Italy and a host of others also had legislation to regulate public communication.
Mumuni stressed that such legislation were essential to ensure peaceful coexistence among the people in the society.
He said that the use of the social media in Nigeria had actually become an outlet for cowards, stressing that freedom of speech did not give one the licence to cause crises, wreak havoc and make unfounded claims.
“People should understand that freedom of speech does not translate to causing crises and promoting falsehood.
“Doing such is unhealthy to our nascent democracy,’’ he said.
Mumuni advised the government to ensure that the punitive measures were in tandem with the offence.
“The punishment attached to the offence should not be different from the ones obtainable in other countries in order to rule out the possibility of any political mission.
“I support fines or jail terms for offenders, irrespective of their status in the society,’’ he said.
Allaying the public’s fears, Mumuni urged Nigerians to give maximum support to the Bill in as much as it was not to punish genuine critics.
He said that only those who abused the social media had cause to be afraid.
“As such, the guilty ones should not go unpunished to serve as deterrent to others,’’ Mumuni said