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NIGERIANS SHOULD SAY NO TO SOCIAL MEDIA DEREGULATION

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By: Adémólá Òrúnbon

Social Media is any digital tool that allows users to quickly create and share content with the public. Social Media encompasses a wide range of websites and apps. Some like Twitter, specialize in sharing links and short written messages. And for individuals, social media is used to keep in touch with friends and extended family. Some people will use various social media applications to network career opportunities, find people across the globe with interests, and share their thoughts, feelings, insight and emotions.

Now, the idea of the federal government to deregulate the social media will bring about limitation of government control over media companies, either in removing or loosening government restriction media companies, but it is supposed to make the companies protect users from content involving things like violence, terrorism, cyber-bullying and child abuse. Companies will have to ensure that harmful content is removed quickly and take steps to prevent it appearing in the first place.

Nigeria’s Constitution, like International and African human rights law, protects the right to freedom of expression and provides that any restriction to this must be justifiable in democratic society. Nigerian lawmakers need to ensure the rights of everyone to peaceful criticism of the government without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanctions. The deregulation of social media by the federal government will also muzzle Nigerians, especially the fifth estate of the realm and sentinel of society. Social media applications hold leaders accountable by exposing corruption and policy failures.

If there is any lingering disagreement between the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Nigerian lawmakers, it is unarguably the federal government’s insistence to regulate the social media space. This is coupled with the fact that the minister of information and culture has for the umpteenth time reiterated that there was a need to inject sanity into the space as he has in his assessment concluded that it has totally gone out of control.

It would be recalled that on December 15, 2015 that the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) together with 19 Nigerians, Africans and international organizations appended their signatures to an open letter addressed to Nigerian Senators urging them to reject a bill they deemed capable of undermining press freedom, stifle public opinion, and criminalize freedom of expression in Nigeria.

According the coalition, the bill, titled the “Frivolous Petitions Bill 2015,” which passed its second reading at the Nigerian Senate on December 1, 2015, would impose a two-year prison sentence or a 2 million naira (about US$10,000) or both, for any person who “through text message, tweets, WhatsApp, or through any social media” posts any abusive statement against any person and/or group of persons or government institution, according to news reports.

The bill also seeks to compel any person who might want to petition, file a complaint, or report a person’s conduct for the purpose of an investigation to file a sworn affidavit in a court–a requirement that would compel whistle-blowers to reveal their identity and put them at risk, said Frank Tietie, a lawyer who heads the Abuja-based Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER). The punishment for noncompliance would be a six-month prison sentence without the option of a fine.

Also enshrined in the bill is , “A person who makes any allegation or publishes any petition in any paper, radio, or other medium with intent to discredit a person, group, or government institution could be punished with two years’ imprisonment or a fine of 4 million naira (about US$20,000). Despite the wide condemnation that trailed the move to regulate the social media space, Lai Mohammed, ostensibly to exhibit federal government determination in ensuring that the space is regulated as planned, he on October 29, 2019, while addressing journalists in Abuja, said the social media has constituted real danger to the unity of the country.

He added that “What goes on social media is so ridiculous and we will contain it.” While assuaging the nerves of those that were opposed to the move, the minister explained that contrary to insinuations, the government had no intention of muzzling the media or stifling free speech, saying the campaign was against fake news and hate speech. He said only those engaged in disseminating fake news or hate speech needed to be worried because they would not be spared.

He said, “We cannot allow fake news and hate speech to become free speech because these Siamese twins of evil are capable of inflicting untold damage on our democracy and are threatening our national unity. They represent a clear and imminent danger to our survival as a nation. He assured that the planned social media regulation would be in line with international best practices as obtainable in Singapore, the United Kingdom and other countries.

“No responsible government will sit by and allow fake news and hate speech to dominate its media space because of the capacity of this menace to exploit our national fault lines to set us against each other and trigger a national conflagration. That is why we will continue to evolve ways to tackle fake news and hate speech until we banish both,” he stated.

Despite the fact that the social media bill suffered setback with 80% opposition at senate hearing in March, 2020, and notwithstanding the public outcry that has trailed the move even as at now, there was a clue that the federal government on Tuesday, precisely on October 27, 2020, kick-started a fresh campaign to regulate the social media space, especially in the wake of the #EndSARS protests that were largely driven on social media platforms that cut across, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, WhatsApp, YouTube, and their likes on the virtual space. The indication was glaring when Lai Mohammed said that the federal government was obligated to regulate social media space to curb the spread of what he called fake news. The minister spoke in Abuja while responding to questions when he appeared before the House of Representatives’ Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values to defend the 2021 budget proposal.

He said the biggest challenge facing the country is fake news and misinformation, warning that the next war that will be fought in the country and across the globe may be on social media. While citing the recent #EndSARS protests, saying that it was fought on social media, he said: “They mobilized using social media. The war today revolves around two things. Smart phones and data and these young men don’t even watch television or listen to the radio or read newspapers. We are sitting on a time bomb on this issue of fake news. “Unfortunately, we have no national policy on social media, and we need one. When we went to China, we could not get Google, Facebook and Instagram”.

The aversion which Nigerians, particularly the youths, have toward the intent of the government to regulate the social media space has no doubt found expression in Desmond Eliot’s debate on Thursday, October 29, 2020, during the plenary session of the Lagos State House Assembly. The Nollywood actor cum politician, since he bared his mind on the need to regulate the social media space, has suffered criticisms from members of the public and his colleagues in the entertainment industry, after groaning that the influence of social media was eroding the culture of Nigerian society.

Unarguably rattled by the backlash of condemnations that greeted his comment, he was compelled to apologize to the youths. Explaining his debate at the state house in an interview on Arise TV, Elliot said: “As a practitioner, and also for the kind of things I do… I watched it over and over again and I can see where people thought it meant I am regulating the social media space. That was not in any way what I meant. When I do things in my constituency, I put it up on my social media space. Why would I ask for that? Besides, it’s constitutional. I could never have called for the social media space to be regulated.”

At this juncture, it is expedient to ask, “Who is afraid of social media?” To answer the foregoing question, it is germane to say that those who are ignorant of the fact that criticism is part of the political position they hold, and that they are answerable and accountable to the people, when it comes to leadership, are the ones that are afraid of social media. They are the ones that are ignorant of the fact that regardless of how popular they are that there will always be criticism even as there will always be commendation when they perform well in the representation of the people.

Again, it is equally germane to say that good leaders don’t fear criticism, and that it is only insecure leaders that are afraid of being criticized on social media, indeed, the present administration of APC won all its elections through criticism of past administrations of PDP on the social media, there is no need for any good government administration that cares for its masses here and in diaspora to fear of social media criticism. We need to jettison the idea of social media deregulation and let’s move forward.

Òrúnbon, an opinion writer, journalist, poet and public affairs analyst, writes in from Federal Housing Estate, Olomore Abeokuta, Ogun State.

Can be reached via: orunbonibrahimademola@gmail.com or 08034493944 and 08029301122

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PhotoNews: GOV. SANWO-OLU COMMISSIONS NEW IGBOGBO-BAYEKU LCDA SECRETARIAT IN IKORODU

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Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu cutting the tape, flanked by his Deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat (right); Chairman, Igbogbo-Bayeku LCDA, Hon. Olusesan Daini (second right); APC Chieftain, Chief Olorunfunmi Bashorun (left); Ayangburen of Ikorodu, Oba Kabiru Shotobi (second left) and others during the commissioning of new Igbogbo-Bayeku LCDA secretariat in Ikorodu, on Wednesday, March 24, 2021.

Newly built Igbogbo-Bayeku LCDA secretariat in Ikorodu, commissioned by Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Wednesday, March 24, 2021.

L-R: Ayangburen of Ikorodu, Oba Kabiru Shotobi; APC Chieftain, Chief Olorunfunmi Bashorun; Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu; his Deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat; Chairman, Igbogbo-Bayeku LCDA, Hon. Olusesan Daini; member, Federal House of Representatives, Hon. Olujimi Benson and Adeboruwa of Igbogbo Kingdom, Oba Semiu Kasali, during the commissioning of new Igbogbo-Bayeku LCDA secretariat in Ikorodu, on Wednesday, March 24, 2021.

L-R: Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, Chairman, Igbogbo-Bayeku LCDA, Hon. Olusesan Daini and Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu during the commissioning of new Igbogbo-Bayeku LCDA secretariat in Ikorodu, on Wednesday, March 24, 2021.

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IJEDE/ITAMAGA ROAD READY IN MAY, SAYS SANWO-OLU

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Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Wednesday assured Lagosians, especially the people of Ikorodu division of the State that the Ijede/Itamagun Road in Igbogbo/Baiyeku Local Council Development Area (LCDA) will be commissioned in May.

Governor Sanwo-Olu who also disclosed that the Imota Rice Mill will be commissioned before middle of the year, said his administration is committed to completing all the ongoing projects and infrastructure in the Ikorodu axis before end of the year.

Speaking at commissioning of the Igbogbo/Baiyeku LCDA new ultra-modern council secretariat on Wednesday, Governor Sanwo-Olu, who was received by mammoth crowd, promised to pay the compensation that is due for those affected by construction of the Igbogbo/Baiyeku Road. He said the compensation will be paid within the next 30 to 60 days.

Governor Sanwo-Olu while expressing his administration’s commitment to meeting the needs of the people said the construction of the Igbogbo Mini Stadium will be awarded to a contractor before end of the year while the jetties around Ikorodu and Ibeshe Housing Estate will be delivered this year.

He said: “I must use this opportunity to charge and tell our citizens in Igbogbo division some of our modest ongoing projects and attempts to bring about quality good governance to your door step.

“We are working on the Ipakodo/Oba Sekumade Road being done by Arab Contractors and they have assured me that we will see tremendous improvements within the next two to four weeks on the project.

“We will be handing over the Ijede/Itamaga Phase 1 Road to you in the month of May; the six kilometers road is almost completed. But we are not leaving you to that; we will ensure that we start the Phase ll.

“I have driven and seen the state of roads in Obafemi Awolowo/Baiyeku Road. I will arrange to see how we will award these roads as soon as possible. The Igbogbo/Baiyeku Road, which is a tough one, is being run by Hitech. We have called Hitech to speed up that road so that we can give our citizens the desired relief.

“But it is not only that, I am standing before you and giving you a commitment that the compensation that is due on that road will be paid within the next 30 to 60 days. We are working on the Agric-Isawo Road. We are pushing the contractor to take it to a logical conclusion.”

Stressing his administration’s commitment to the first pillar of the THEMES Agenda; Traffic Management and Transportation, Governor Sanwo-Olu said his administration will soon address the gridlock in Ikorodu Garage Roundabout.

He said: “We are about to have a massive transformation at the Garage Roundabout in Ikorodu, which is a major source of gridlock. We have been reviewing what the best model of solving the traffic on that corridor is. The Ayangburen of Ikorodu will attest to it that we have taken representation to his palace on how best to do that road; whether there is going to be flyover or junction improvement, in the next two months, work will start on that roundabout.

“The Fourth Mainland Bridge will take effect from Badore on the Ajah axis and it would be landing at Bayeku/Aiyetoro and will move from Aiyetoro to Igbogbo before getting to Lagos/Ibadan Expressway. We are working assiduously to ensure that our PPP Model works well and we are expecting to flag it off before end of this year.”

Governor Sanwo-Olu while commissioning the ultra-modern council secretariat commended the Chairman of Igbogbo-Baiyeku LCDA, Comrade Olusesan Daini, for the courage to initiate and implement this laudable project.

He said: “The completion of this project is proof that with the right attitude to governance and a sense of purpose, we can touch the lives of our people at the grassroots level and give them a sense of belonging.

“I am confident that this elegant edifice will boost the productivity of staff and make them more dedicated to their duties, which will in turn lead to improved service delivery; a key goal of this administration.”

Speaking earlier, Comrade Daini commended Governor Sanwo-Olu and his team for the hard work and efforts directed at changing the trajectory of development in Ikorodu division and across Lagos State.

Daini said the first structures on the site where the Ultra-modern council Secretariat was built was an office and a dispensary of the then Igbogbo/Baiyeku Local Council which was created in 1955 by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the Premier of Western Region.

“The completion of this edifice, in record time, marks a significant milestone in the life of our administration and alluded to the well-established fact that Local Council Development Areas in Lagos State are well-prepared to take off as full-fledged and statutory Local Government Areas as soon as the necessary constitutional amendments/provisions are effected

“We will continue to intensify our efforts towards the realization of our administration’s cardinal goals anchored on infrastructure development, improved healthcare system, youth/women empowerment and human capacity development.”

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Hijab Controversy: Bishop Oyedepo fumes, vows to show Muslim the consuming fire of God

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There has been a conflict amongst Muslims and Christians for some days now over hijab wearing for female students in 10 government grant-aided missionary schools in Oyo State.

Reacting, Oyedepo who said the controversy was a nasty development urged the Kwara State Government to return the schools to the missionary.

He said, ”It is such a nasty development in Kwara State where Muslims are asking their students in our schools to wear Hijab, and the church said “no”

”You know the reason why, we have never showed the world the other side of God. God is not a toy, let us show them the consuming fire part of God. They need to know.

”Leave the schools for the owner, go to your schools. Is there any fight? Stop putting fingers in the eyes of others, the world should be warned against the church. The church is a time bomb.

”When God turns his back on anyone or any system, that system is cursed. My advice is leave the schools for the owners, find your schools. Men and women can wear hijab there. Stop putting your fingers in the eyes of others when they are not blind.

“The music We have never showed the world the other side of God. God is not a toy, let us show them the consuming fire of God” He said.

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