15 CSOs warn against attempt to pass social media bill into law

Social media trends in Nigeria

…say may trigger another #EndSARS-like protest

By Gabriel Ewepu

ABUJA-ANOTHER round of protest may hit the streets as 15 Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, Friday, warned that any attempt to pass the social media bill into law could led to spontaneous protest similar to the ongoing #EndSARS protest.

This was in a statement signed by leaders of the CSOs and made available to Vanguard, which include Centre for Liberty (CFL); Africa Caribbean Heritage Alliance (ACHA); TACT; Haly Hope Foundation; Raising New Voices Initiative; Girl Child Empowerment and Intervention Centre (GCEIC); Centre for Impact Advocacy; Mojirayo Ogunlana-Nkanga.

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Others are Dinidari Foundation; Enough is Enough (EiE); Center for Fairness in Public Administration (CFPA); Free Nigeria Coalition; Concerned Nigerians; Adopt A Goal Initiative; and Move on Nigeria.

They cautioned the National Assembly not to listen to individuals and government affiliates in passing the bill into law.

The statement reads in part, “We have watched with dismay the growing demand from different individuals and government affiliates following the crucial role the social media has played in the recent EndSARS protest that the social media bill should be quickly passed by the National Assembly.

“The coordination and consistency of this obnoxious demand, especially at a time when Nigerians have been very vocal against police brutality and are demanding a better Nigerian police institution through the social media, has compelled us to immediately decry such demand as insensitive, retrogressive and anti-democracy.

“The overwhelming demand for police reform in Nigeria today is a product of government’s insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians for a very long time. In the same way, any attempt to pass the social media bill will only further agitate the polity and widen the distrust of Nigerians towards the government.”

They also pointed out that the social media remains a very crucial platform where citizens can engage the government.

“Considering recent events in the country, particularly the escalation of violence against peaceful protesters in Lekki, Lagos and other parts of the country, it has become extremely important for the Nigerian government to demonstrate its commitment to accountability to the people; and the social media remains a very crucial platform where citizens can lead such conversation.

“In addition, recent developments in the country proves that the social media is playing an invaluable role in deepening Nigeria’s democracy and promoting citizens’ demand for accountability, hence; a very important thing that government must do at this time is to ensure that any conversation about restricting digital freedom or freedom of speech is sharply considered a threat to Nigerians and Nigeria’s civic space.”

They also expressed hope that the National Assembly would do the needful by ‘killing’ the bill.

“It is our hope, therefore, that the National Assembly would take the lead in demonstrating government’s commitment to the Nigerian people in these trying times, and kill the social media bill once and for all, and make sure that a more democratic approach is employed to deal with fake news in the country”, it said.

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