The sponsor of the ‘Social Media Bill’, Mohammed Sani Musa (APC, Niger), has said the opinions of Nigerians on the bill supersede his personal interest.
He made this statement at the opening of the public hearing on the bill.
The Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters commenced the public hearing of the bill having passed first and second reading.
The bill, ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019,’ was introduced in the Senate in November 2019.
Many Nigerians have kicked against it and the lawmakers have come under criticism for considering the bill. Many have said the bill is targeted at silencing the media and the critical public.
The legislation comes a few years after a similar anti-social media bill introduced in the eight Senate, sparked outrage across the country.
But the sponsor of the bill, Mr Musa, on Monday said the bill does not intend to gag the media but to check the spread of false information on the internet.
In his speech, Mr Musa said he was aware of the outrage the bill has caused and that the interest of Nigerians supersedes his personal interest.
The lawmaker also said he did not consult anybody when the bill was conceived.
“This bill is not a breach of fundamental human rights. The interest of Nigerians supersedes my personal interest.
“If it is accepted, so be it. If not, I will continue to push for regulation of social media”
Justifying the bill, the lawmaker said internet falsehood cuts across religion, ethnic groups and most importantly, security.
“He said such falsehoods can cause chaos, total breakdown of law and order.”
Mr Musa who said he has been on social media for about 17 years, added that he knows how the internet works and firewalls on websites do not work properly in Nigeria.
Earlier, he said it was an opportunity to address the growing threats which if left unchecked, can cause serious damage in the polity and disrupt peaceful existence.
The public hearing is still underway. Of over 11 groups that have spoken on the bill, only the Nigerian Army has supported the bill.
The hearing is one of the final steps of the process of bill passage after which the legislation will be considered and possibly passed into law – if the lawmakers vote in support of the bill.