Despite public outcry and concerns, the Nigerian government last week began a new move to regulate social media after the large turnout of Nigerians for the street demonstrations against police brutality and bad governance.
The nationwide protests were mostly driven on social media platforms as #EndSARS gained the world’s attention.
Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, who had been the leading voice for the government, had explained that the decision to regulate social media was to curb the spread of “fake news”.
Also, the Northern governors led by Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, have demanded censorship of the social media in Nigeria.
As the call for regulation of social media intensifies with the government circle, many Nigerians have vowed to resist such measures as they expressed displeasure over the proposal with the hashtag #SayNoToSocialMediaBill.
Some of them, who spoke to Sahara Reporters on Tuesday in separate interviews, kicked against the proposal, noting that it is an act of irresponsibility on the part of the federal government to plan the regulation of social media.
They also noted that the proposal, if passed, would allow the federal government to gag the voice of the common man who easily uses social media to demand accountability and transparency from political leaders.
Oluyemi Fashipe, a digital media strategist, said social media had been a free space for the youth in the country to promote their business and hold the government accountable.
“Aside from the fact that every other media is not accessible to the people, social media will give you the avenue to lend your voice on burning issues,” Fasipe said. “So when you plan to regulate social media, it shows that you are trying to silence the voice of the ordinary people who don’t have access to the traditional media.
“It also shows that anything the people say on social media and you are not in terms with, the government will want to tag it as hate speech which we must all kick against. And ordinarily, It would show that you are gagging the people and their voice. I see it as an irresponsible decision taken too far by the federal government.
“There are other issues I feel this government should face squarely instead of planning to silence dissenting voices through social media. As it stands, Nigeria seems to be the headquarters of poverty, and I feel our leaders or government should be more concerned about this.”
A social media influencer, Abiodun Ogunmola, told SaharaReporters that Nigerian government was already confused by the proposed regulation, noting that people have the right to use social media as a means to put the government in check.
“I feel everybody should have a right in their country even when they are making a mistake. So, social media is the only veritable means through which everybody can express their minds freely,” Ogunmola said.
While kicking against the endorsement of the northern governors for social media regulation, Hamzat Lawal, co-founder of the Connected Development, said the federal government would soon be shocked by the revolution that is ready to happen in the country by its move to deny the people free flow of information.
Lawal said that the youth who mostly used social media are prepared to rise against the government in its intention to regulate social media.
“The citizens would reunite and rise against them,” Lawal said. “Don’t forget that just a few weeks ago, Nigerians came out under the #EndSARS protest to organize themselves peacefully against police brutality but that is the tip of the ice bag.
“If the government goes-ahead to gag the social media and stifle the voice of the citizens, then the people would rise. The youth would continue to undertake their roles as active citizens peacefully.”
A human rights activist and lawyer, Tope Akinyode, said the government was already inviting chaos, noting that Nigerians were ready to flood the streets to frustrate any social media regulations.
SaharaReporters, New York