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Hate Speech Bill: I am trying to protect Nigerians – Sen Musa

…Senator Musa defends Social Media Bill

• 2019 polls: ‘My INEC contract story’

• Says he nearly went blind during incarceration by security agents

Senator Mohammed Sani Musa, APC, Niger East, is the Chairman, Committee on Senate Services. Penultimate week, Musa re- introduced in the Senate a bill that will regulate the use of the social media in Nigeria, entitled, Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019 (SB.132)’.In this interview, the bill sponsor speaks on its objectives among other issues.

Excerpts:

Many believe that your ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill 2019’ is being sponsored by some people in the executive arm of government to shut out dissenting voices.

What is your take?There is nothing in my bill to show that government or anybody is trying to protect anyone in power. I am also not doing it to protect myself as a legislator; rather I am trying to protect Nigerians from the (social media) misuse.

If more advanced and complex countries than Nigeria can regulate their social media usage and make their online space more credible, what stops us from doing same? Some people simply want to attract attention to their sites in order to have advantage over others. They would take the picture of the President and that of a female minister and say they are getting married. The implication is that it affects the credibility of the country and that is what we want to stop. We are not doing this to gag the media. We want the media to be our partner. We want the media to see our shortcomings and expose them because they are facts. I don’t want the media to see this bill as if it is targeted at them.

Some civil society groups have alleged that the social media exposed you as a contractor with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, while standing election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the last elections and this, for you, is time to fight back with this bill. Is that true?

Prior to the 2015 general elections, I was an active participant on Facebook. I freely used my Facebook page when Femi Fani-Kayode wrote a petition against me to the National Security Adviser, knowing that the Federal Government had given me a project then. My company was executing a project for the Federal Government. We didn’t default in that project neither did we do anything wrong. The client that gave us the project did not complain that we were not doing what we were supposed to do. However, when someone wanted us to compromise the whole process of the 2019 elections and we refused, they went to the Internet, captured things that I had over the years, and posted them. Another example is that of the President. He contested election from 2003 up to when he became the President. Some people came up with his pictures of 2003 where he was having a meeting at Oriental Hotels in Lagos and he was given N2bn. All the information was posted then on the Internet, knowing full well that they were not true. People were re-circulating false information. If it happens in a country that has this type of law in place, those messages will not go out. Also in 2015, I was incarcerated and it was the same social media that were talking about it. Some were saying the truth, others were posting falsehood.   In 2019, someone said I had been bribed and given a slot to contest election into the Senate, knowing that I worked so hard to win my election after rigorous campaigns, even when the APC refused to give me the ticket which I duly won. That is part of the reason I’m saying that (Adams) Oshiomhole must go! I’m a freedom fighter. I want to see every right protected. I cannot then be a party to a situation that would subjugate some people and deny them their rights.

So what was your immediate reaction to the public outcry that trailed the bill after it was presented for first reading?

vanguardngr.com logo 10′ Home » News » News » Hate Speech Bill: I am trying to protect Nigerians – Sen MusaHate Speech Bill: I am trying to protect Nigerians – Sen MusaON NOVEMBER 24, 20195:57 AMIN NEWS, POLITICSBY UROWAYINO JEREMIAH…Senator Musa defends Social Media Bill• 2019 polls: ‘My INEC contract story’• Says he nearly went blind during incarceration by security agentsBy Henry Umoru, Assistant Political EditorSenator Mohammed Sani Musa, APC, Niger East, is the Chairman, Committee on Senate Services. Penultimate week, Musa re- introduced in the Senate a bill that will regulate the use of the social media in Nigeria, entitled, Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019 (SB.132)’.In this interview, the bill sponsor speaks on its objectives among other issues.Excerpts:Many believe that your ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill 2019’ is being sponsored by some people in the executive arm of government to shut out dissenting voices. What is your take?There is nothing in my bill to show that government or anybody is trying to protect anyone in power. I am also not doing it to protect myself as a legislator; rather I am trying to protect Nigerians from the (social media) misuse.READ ALSO:MultiChoice group showcases media portfolio, pledges to enhance customer experience(Opens in a new browser tab)Do you think that Nigerians would believe you that your bill is not meant to stiffen opposition?If more advanced and complex countries than Nigeria can regulate their social media usage and make their online space more credible, what stops us from doing same? Some people simply want to attract attention to their sites in order to have advantage over others. They would take the picture of the President and that of a female minister and say they are getting married. The implication is that it affects the credibility of the country and that is what we want to stop. We are not doing this to gag the media. We want the media to be our partner. We want the media to see our shortcomings and expose them because they are facts. I don’t want the media to see this bill as if it is targeted at them.Some civil society groups have alleged that the social media exposed you as a contractor with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, while standing election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the last elections and this, for you, is time to fight back with this bill. Is that true?More in HomeWoman in court for allegedly selling day-old baby N300,000Woman in court for allegedly selling day-old baby N300,000Police, IbadanBurning of Salome Abuh, Kogi PDP Women leader, a reprisal attack — PoliceNBS reveals capital importation into Nigeria declined by 7.7%NBS reveals capital importation into Nigeria declined by 7.7%R Kelly, Abortion, GirlfriendR. Kelly’s ex-girlfriend makes bombshell claims on abortions and assaultsCourt stops EFCC from prosecuting ex-Customs CG, DikkoPrior to the 2015 general elections, I was an active participant on Facebook. I freely used my Facebook page when Femi Fani-Kayode wrote a petition against me to the National Security Adviser, knowing that the Federal Government had given me a project then. My company was executing a project for the Federal Government. We didn’t default in that project neither did we do anything wrong. The client that gave us the project did not complain that we were not doing what we were supposed to do. However, when someone wanted us to compromise the whole process of the 2019 elections and we refused, they went to the Internet, captured things that I had over the years, and posted them. Another example is that of the President. He contested election from 2003 up to when he became the President. Some people came up with his pictures of 2003 where he was having a meeting at Oriental Hotels in Lagos and he was given N2bn. All the information was posted then on the Internet, knowing full well that they were not true. People were re-circulating false information. If it happens in a country that has this type of law in place, those messages will not go out. Also in 2015, I was incarcerated and it was the same social media that were talking about it. Some were saying the truth, others were posting falsehood. In 2019, someone said I had been bribed and given a slot to contest election into the Senate, knowing that I worked so hard to win my election after rigorous campaigns, even when the APC refused to give me the ticket which I duly won. That is part of the reason I’m saying that (Adams) Oshiomhole must go! I’m a freedom fighter. I want to see every right protected. I cannot then be a party to a situation that would subjugate some people and deny them their rights.So what was your immediate reaction to the public outcry that trailed the bill after it was presented for first reading?The outcry is a welcome development. This is the reason we present the bill because there must be engagement. One thing I kept saying about the bill is that we need the legislation. Even you, as a journalist, you need it more because this is your profession. You don’t have any other thing doing. You want at any time to see that whatever you present is authentic. Be sure you do background checks on news items before going to the press. You learnt while you were in school what ethical conduct should be in journalism.Nowadays, there is Internet. You go online, search for information on Google about whatever you want freely. Nobody is being gagged by this bill and nobody is being refused any opportunity to do his or her legitimate duty. I use the Internet more than any other person. Part of the things that spoilt my eyes was my incarceration by the Department of State Service. When I was released, I was always on the Internet because I was busy trying to see how I could read.If you ask anyone close to me, they will tell you that I spend 18 hours every day either on iPad or laptop. I’m always on the Internet and social media. It is not as if we are trying to come up with a bill or a legislation that would infringe the rights of the people. The Constitution has given Nigerians fundamental human rights. There is constitutional freedom of speech and participation. My bill will guide against falsification of information. Some people will know that certain information is false and still post it on the Internet. We are all victims of this thing. Some time ago, I saw Vanguard on the Internet and I thought it was the real Vanguard online. I saw the type of news that came out of it. I am sure if I asked the Vanguard management, they will say they didn’t know anything about the website. You (Vanguard online) cannot do what the other Vanguard website was doing because they would want to stand on the test of their credibility whenever you are called to come and defend what you have written. If anyone has contrary view, you must have your facts right. We want to guard against all these things; that is why we say by the time we put penalty on these things, there will be sanity. Offenders will be taken to court. The court could decide to free the person if he or she was not found guilty. On the other hand, the offender could be found guilty of using untrue information on the Internet and impose punishment. I know certain aspects of our jurisprudence have taken care of issues that border on defamation and other things. This bill is entirely different from that. I have said it repeatedly that sending a message online is like switching on your light and you will see the speed at which it will go. Before you know it, the reading public is deceived. Unknown to many journalists, my bill is coming to protect their profession. That is how it is done in other parts of the world including the United States. Information dissemination is teleguided. I challenge whoever says that the social media is not regulated in the United States because I can produce some legislation from some states to show how they are guided. It is the same thing in Canada. Talking about the fundamental human rights and freedom, you can challenge freedom of speech in the two countries but they tend to guide these things. Malaysia too is regulating social media usage, Singapore is doing it; China has done it. Even Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are all doing the same thing. Go Kuwait and type ‘fuck you’ and the message will not go. Put any form of pornography, it won’t send. Take a picture of a nude person and try to throw it into the Internet in all the countries that I have mentioned and you would see that they would not go out. Corporate bodies cannot be free if they are found guilty of an offence. Penalties range from light punishment of N5, 000 fine and N300, 000. If a senator decided to post something on his social media account knowing that such information is untrue and somebody challenged him and he is found guilty, he would pay N300, 000 fine. It is still in order. If I see a young man on the street committing similar offence and the court finds him guilty and he is asked to go and pay N10 , 000 or N5, 000, by the time he sweats before he is able to pay, he will not do it again and it would be a deterrent to others.

What is the difference between your bill and the hate speech bill?

My bill is different from hate speech bill. As far as I know, we have a legislation that can tackle hate speech. My bill can also tackle hate speech because if you know that you are going to say something that is not true, you will think of the consequences. There is a difference between my bill and the hate speech bill. I may come out to say something that is against your tradition; it is left for you to prove that the statement has made people to look down on you at the court of law. The aim of my bill is to prevent the transmission of false statement, or a declaration of facts, knowing full well that those facts are not true in Nigeria, to enable measures to be taken to counter the efforts of such transmission, suppress the financing, promotion and other support of online locations that repeatedly transmit false statements. That also protects your business. If I post something and I wrote VANGUARD, I will still go online. You cannot come and claim that it is yours. The reading public will not know that I have put a slash to show that it is not the real VANGUARD. Now, with my bill, VANGUARD can take such person who was imitating its publication to court.

There was a similar bill in the 8th Senate which was thrown out after the stakeholders rejected it, how will you feel if your own also suffers same?

I don’t expect the process of the bill passage to go smoothly. I expect to have opposition, people that would say they don’t want it. But we shall see the percentage of the people that would say that they don’t want it. The civil society can be very loud. Very few journalists that do not understand can be loud, but credible journalists would see reason to say they don’t only need these things for their country but we also need it to protect our profession. By the time the details of the bill come out and you see it, you will know that anything that you see in it is done in the best interest of this country. I am not being myopic. So many things go on air during electioneering which diminish the integrity of our country. When this happens, the international community sees us as not being serious and investors get scared of coming into our country because they think Nigeria is at war.