The social media bill, otherwise called ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019,’has dominated Nigeria's political discourse for over a week.
The bill, according to its sponsor, seeks to regulate Nigeria's social media space to curb the spread of fake news and falsehood.
However, Nigerians are strongly protesting the passage of the bill, which has scaled through second reading in the Senate.
Many are of the opinion that it is draconian and is aimed at silencing Nigerians from criticising the political leaders.
The bill has provoked outrage from Nigerians and celebrities who are mobilizing the masses reach out to their senatorial representatives to ensure it is not passed.
Though the majority of the senators are in support of the bill (through their voice votes), which is why it has passed the second reading, five senators stand out among the rest in terms of their commitment to ensuring the bill becomes a law.
They are Mohammed Musa, (APC, Niger East) Ibrahim Gobir (APC, Sokoto East), Bala Na’Allah (APC, Kebbi South), Elisha Abbo (PDP, Adamawa North) and Abba Moro (PDP, Benue South).
Only one senator, Chimaroke Nnamani (PDP, Enugu East), has openly spoken against the passage of the bill so far.
1. Mohammed Musa, (APC, Niger East)
Mohammed Musa, (APC, Niger East) is the sponsor of the controversial bill. He claimed his aim is to ensure government curbs the spread of fake news, not to gag the press or deny Nigerians freedom of speech.
Senator Musa had been earlier called out by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the buildup to the 2019 elections.
The opposition party alleged that Musa's company, Activate Technologies Limited, got a contract from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to supply the machines used in printing the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).
The electoral body later confirmed that Musa's company got the contract as the PDP alleged but assured that the PVCs would not be compromised as the party feared.
2. Ibrahim Gobir (APC, Sokoto East)
Premium Times reports that Senator Gobir was the first to support the controversial bill.
“To be candid in Nigeria today, somebody can just sit down somewhere in a little room and begin to spread fake news and before you know it, it has damaged you completely," the newspaper quoted him as saying on the floor of the Senate.
The Sokoto East senator maintained there is the need to regulate the social media and ensure that offenders are punished.
He, therefore, called for a speedy passage of the bill.
However, contrary to the eagerness he displayed in ensuring the social media bill is speedily passed, Senator Gobir is one of the lawmakers who opposed the Gender Equality Bill introduced in the eighth Senate.
3. Bala Na’Allah (APC, Kebbi South)
According to Premium Times, Senator Na'Allah did not only support the bill, he also felt “vindicated by the bill.”
This is because he had earlier sponsored a similar bill, “A Bill for an Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and other Matters Connected therewith, in the eighth Senate which was, however, rejected as a result of public outrage.
His bill which was withdrawn by the previous Senate sought to compel critics to accompany their petitions with sworn court affidavit, or face six months imprisonment upon conviction, among other provisions.
4. Elisha Abbo (PDP, Adamawa North)
Though he belongs to the opposition party, Senator Abbo is one of the senators who have openly spoken in support of the bill.
The young lawmaker was recently exposed when a video of him surfaced online where he was harassing a woman in an Abuja shop.
Though the Senate set up a committee to investigate Abbo's action, the report of the committee is yet to be made public.
"So, I am supporting this bill holistically and I stand up again to say that this bill is good and if we cannot regulate spread of falsehood, it will consume all of us tomorrow,” he said.
5. Abba Moro (PDP, Benue South)
Senator Abba Moro is another opposition lawmaker who openly spoke in support of the bill.
Premium Times reports that Moro said lawmakers have in one way or the other been victims on social media,
“I think all of us here have been victims of the spread of falsehoods and the manipulation of the internet has caused a lot of havoc to some of us. And so, I rise to support this bill believing that it will protect the society against unscrupulous elements within our society," he was quoted to have said.
Senator Moro, prior to coming to the Senate, had served as Nigeria's minister of interior during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
It was under his leadership that the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), an agency under the Ministry of Interior, conducted a poorly planned recruitment exercise which caused the death of about 14 applicants across Nigeria.
The victims died in stampedes caused by the poor organisation of the recruitment tests in Abuja and other cities.
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Meanwhile, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has accused Senator Moro of awarding a multi-million contract without following due process.
The anti-graft agency disclosed this on Monday, November 25. It said the interior ministry under Moro did not follow the laid down guidelines in the award of contract for the 2014 Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) recruitment exercise that claimed the lives of many applicants.
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