Many Nigerians expressed outrage when on November 5, 2019 the Nigerian Senate re-introduced a bill that will regulate the use of social media in the country. The bill, ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill 2019’ was one of the 11 bills read for the first time at the floor of the house that day.
That was not the first time the idea of passing a bill to regulate the use of social media was entertained by government. In 2015, there was a sponsored anti-social media bill but, the bill was kicked against by many Nigerians who believe it negates citizens’ fundamental rights and would restrict freedom of expression. It was then re-introduced in November 2019. The bill passed the second reading on the floor of the senate on Wednesday, November 20, 2019. This practically means the bill is well on its way to becoming law since it is only one more reading away from achieving that and getting assent by the executive.
The man behind the bill
The man behind the bill is Sen. Mohammed Sani Musa representing Niger East Senatorial district, a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He is the sponsor of the legislation.
Who is Senator Mohammed Sani Musa?
Mohammed Sani Musa, Dan-Durbin Minna, was born on the 11 May 1965 at Minna Niger State Nigeria. He has an impressive educational background. He attended Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria where he bagged B.Sc (Hon) in Business Administration in 1990, specialising in Banking and Finance. He has a Postgraduate Certificate in International Management of the University of Liverpool which he got in 2112, a Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) in Public Policy and Management University of London he got in 2007, Diploma in Insurance from ABU Zaria in 1986, Professional Certificate in Conflict Analysis from the United States Institute of Peace – 2007, Certificate in Computer Appreciation – Computer Center Federal University of Technology Minna – 1986. He also attended Harvard Business School, Harvard University Cambridge Boston USA – 2012 for a training programme, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA – 2008 for a Leadership Training Programme on Accountability, Ethics, and Corporate Governance. General School Certificate/WAEC-1983.
Mohammed Sani was the President/CEO of ACT Technologies Ltd and was a former Special Adviser – Investment & Infrastructure Niger State Government and Director / Member of the Board of Directors of the Niger State Development Company Limited (NSDC). He was also Chairman, Task Force on Environmental Management and Member, Niger State Economic & Social Advisory Council. He was also Associate Member, Niger Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture Minna; Patron, Tea and Coffee Producers Association of Nigeria. Senator Musa is Member, National Sesame Seed Association of Nigeria; Member, Board of Trustees, National Shea Products Association of Nigeria.; Member, Stakeholders group on the Diversification of Commerce in Nigeria (Commerce 44); Member, Shippers Association of Nigeria; Delegate, Presidential Trade Mission to Japan. He was also the Niger State President of Zodiac Club, ABU Zaria.
Senator Musa was a Gubernatorial Candidate for Niger State Peaoples Democratic Party (PDP). He was also PDP Senatorial Candidate for Niger East, PDP National Delegate, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Paikoro LGA Niger State. He was a Member of the Gubernatorial Campaign Committee PDP Niger State. He was also an Ex-Officio of United Nigeria Congress Party Niger State Chapter, Ex-Officio, All Peoples Party (later ANPP). He defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and upon this political platform he contest and won the senatorial election for as the Senator currently representing Niger East senatorial district in the Senate.
Corporate Sector Interests
He is currently the President/CEO of Sensitive Logistics Services Limited and a Director of many other companies in various sectors of the Nigerian economy. This includes companies in the shipping, oil and gas, real estate, secure identity and smart card production and manufacturing sectors.
Senator Musa is married to Sa’adatu Sani with four (4) Children: Zainab, Suleiman, Ibrahim and Aisha.
Senator Musa is a jolly good fellow who has very interesting recreational activities he is engaged in while not in politics. His hobbies include Travelling, Tennis, Polo and Horse Racing.
Why he sponsored the bill
Senator Musa said the bill was aimed at curbing fake news on the internet. That sounds cool but the action has been greeted by controversial reactions probably because people are seeing other things beyond the so-called aim of “curbing fake news on the internet”. Senator Musa, who is representing Niger East Senatorial District, reportedly said that his bill on social media was aimed at guiding the users and not to gag media practitioners in Nigeria.
Senator Musa had said in an interview with journalists, the re-introduction of this bill was aimed at ensuring sanity on social media. He said individuals who post false information on the internet, when found guilty would be asked to pay a fine of N150,000 or they are sentenced to three months imprisonment. Senator Musa also lamented that troll or bot accounts have been used to rapidly spread falsehood across Nigeria in a manner that now threatens national security.
The Senator added that any corporate organisation that refused to block false information after the regulating agency had alerted it would be asked to pay a fine ranging from N5m to N10m.
Here’s what Senator Musa said while justifying the bill:
“One of the disadvantages of the internet is the spread of falsehood and manipulation of unsuspecting users. Today, motivated by geopolitical interest and identity politics, state and non- state actors use the internet to discredit government, misinform people and turn one group against the other.
“The hoax about the demise of President Muhammadu Buhari in London and his purported replacement by one Jubril of Sudan, among others, are things that threaten the peace, security and harmony of our people.”
“Penalty for defaulters goes up to N300,000 for individuals and up to N10 million for corporate organisations and imprisonment of up to three years or both.
It should be recalled that on June 26, 2018, the Chairman of the Nigerian Senate Committee on ICT and Cybercrime, Abdul Fatai Buhari, announced that the Nigerian government lay before the Senate a Bill set to regulate social media because many Nigerians were misusing it. So you need to note that the original genesis of this bill is traced to the government. This means it is actually the government that muted the idea of regulating the social media.