The Senate on Monday in Abuja commenced a public hearing on the controversial social media Bill.
The Bill titled: “A Bill for an Act to make provisions for the protection from internet falsehood and manipulations and for related matters, 2019,” was sponsored by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa, representing Niger East.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan arrived the venue at 11:30am after which the event was kickstarted with a rendition of the National Anthem.
Already seated are Human rights activists, heads of media organizations, Civil Society Organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), including the Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Mr Clement Nwankwo, etc.
Others include the National President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Chris Isiguzo, Chief Executive Officers of Media Organizations, Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore and Convener of Concerned Nigerians, Deji Adeyanju, among others.
Meanwhile, Speaking to newsmen after presenting the bill, the sponsor of the bill said Nigeria needs the legislation because it would protect its “fragile unity”.
“There has never been a time when Nigeria has been very fragile in terms of its unity than this period,” Musa said.
“It is not to stop people from going into the internet to do whatever they feel legitimate is okay to do but what we felt is wrong is for you to use the medium to document information that you know is false, just because you want to achieve your desirable interest.”
He said the bill proposes a punishment of N150,000 fine or three years imprisonment for any offender.
“If it is a corporate organisation that refused to block that false information despite the fact that they have been alerted by authorities not to disseminate that information for public interest and they still go ahead and do it, refusing to do that blockage will be penalised between N5 million to N10 million for those organisations,” the senator said.
“For example, MTN, Glo, 9 mobile etc. which we use their platform in transmitting this information, if nothing is done, we fine them and you will see that it will be a deterrent to others.”
In the previous Senate, there was a similar bill sponsored by Bala Na’Allah, then deputy majority leader. But the bill was withdrawn after outrage by some Nigerians.
Recently, Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, said the federal government was working on sanitising the social media.