The #EndSARS Protests that took place in October revealed the growing frustrations of the Nigerian public over police brutality, government corruption, and a lack of vision from the Buhari administration. The movement was very successful when compared to other protests that have occurred in Nigeria over the past few years, which unfortunately ended in violence and unrest, forcing organizers across the country to go into hiding. Its global reach was the surprise which convinced me that this was real and will not be going anywhere anytime soon, with Nigerians in the diaspora and celebrities local and international amplifying the cause. Now that the heat of the unrest has died down a bit across the country, the fallout from the protests has taken the issue of social media and ‘regulate’ it.
On Monday, Governors of the Northern part of Nigeria asked the Federal Government to regulate social media to stop the spread of fake news. They stated that social media had a ‘devastating’ effect in their discussions, vowing to keep Nigeria as one while condemning the #EndSARS Protests, believing that it is an attempt to remove President Muhammadu Buhari from office. There were allegations placed against former actor and Lagos House of Assembly Member Desmond Elliot that lawmakers in the state were working on a bill to regulate social media, something Elliot has denied. Minister of Information Lai Mohammed has also voiced his call for a social media bill to be passed to stop the spread of fake news. My question for those in authority who are now crying for this is, why are you so paranoid over passing a social media bill?
The topic of censorship of social media has been around for about a year now. The Anti-Social Media Bill or the official name Protections from Internet Falsehoods, Manipulations, and Other Related Matters Bill was placed in the Senate last year but failed to pass due to pressure from the public and Civil Society Organisations. Now the conversation is back into play following the #EndSARS Protest, with politicians across the country voicing the need for a Social Media bill citing the likes of China and Singapore as examples. Firstly, why are they citing China and Singapore when those countries, despite becoming developed states, have a one-party system and are one of the worst countries in terms of cracking down on free speech and dissent. Is that what we are supposed to copy as a democracy? They have realized how effective social media can be in sparking a social movement. We have seen it with the Arab Spring in 2011, the Pro-Democracy protests in Hong Kong and the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States.
It is true that social media heavily spreads fake news with Facebook, Twitter, and Whatsapp being the biggest culprits. However, politicians have used the spread of fake news to their advantage, so it is quite hypocritical whenever politicians what to curb the spread of fake news when they are the ones that agitate it, and laws are already in place to curb that problem. Their push for this bill shows that they want to crackdown on dissent and free speech. The #EndSARS Protests have raised the voices of young people to a level we have rarely seen in Nigeria. It also made politicians across the country take notice and instead of trying to understand the frustrations of citizens, they want to silence voices who are critical of the Buhari administration.
Whether they like it or not, the voices of Nigerians will not stay silent and people can see the stunt they are trying to pull out with the discussion over the Anti-social Media Bill. Passing this bill will enable politicians to dictate stories in their favour and silence those that they critical of the government. If we claim to be a democracy, passing this bill will only mean that we’re just pretending.
This opinion story has been published on CAMPUS REPORTER with very minimal editing to preserve the original voice of the author. CAMPUS REPORTER does not bear any responsibility for the contents of this story, all views belong to the author.
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