Federal Government Renews Initiatives to  Enact Law to Regulate Social Media

Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, Speaker of House of Representatives

Federal authorities in Nigeria have renewed their efforts to regulate social media as Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, Speaker of the House of Representatives, announced on February 8, 2024, that the House will strengthen libel and cyberbullying laws, in response to insistence by his predecessor, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who is now Chief of Staff of the President, that social media has become a societal menace and must be regulated.

Speaking during a press conference at the National Assembly Complex, Hon. Tajudeen said the House “intends to strengthen libel, slander, and defamation legislation in this regard”, adding that those behind the campaign are ignorant of existing laws like the Criminal Code Act, Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act, and the Criminal Code. He said the campaign against Hon. Gbajabiamila “points to the danger of an unfettered and unaccountable social media”.

The Speaker said: “I wish to make it categorically clear that the House has no intention to stifle free speech. Instead, our objective is to protect the dignity of individuals and the integrity of public discourse.”

“We will ensure that these laws are balanced, providing room for healthy and constructive criticism while safeguarding individuals and institutions from malicious and unfounded attacks,” he said.

He called on security agencies to work diligently and swiftly to investigate all matters that Hon. Gbajabiamila has raised in his letter to them and inform Nigerians of their findings and if not found guilty, “these agencies must fish out those responsible for the character assassination and ensure they are brought before the law.”

Hon. Gbajabiamila had same day, during the public presentation of a book titled, “Nigerian Public Discourse: The Interplay of Empirical Evidence and Hyperbole” written by a former Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, in Lagos, complained that social media has become a societal menace and must be regulated.

Representing President Bola Tinubu at the event, Hon. Gbajabiamila said in his preamble that although social media has the potential to reach millions around the world, it “poses great danger, not just to the society, but even unintended consequences to the individual who is at the receiving end, including security of life.”

He disclosed that as Speaker of the House, he attempted to make a law that will regulate social media but was vigorously resisted by civil society.

He said: “The social media has become a societal menace and must be regulated. As many people do not understand that once the send button is hit, there is a potential to reach millions of people around the world which is capable of causing a great danger not just in the society but even unintended consequences to the individuals that are receiving information which may include security of life.”

The statement noted that Tinubu maintained that his administration has an obligation to engage in evidence-based discussion and data-reliant decision-making, hence, the need for accurate data that would be used for better policy formulation and execution.

“As citizens become more interested in governance, it is the government’s obligation to ensure that engagement with citizens springs with shared agreement on what the truth is, what is real and what is not,” Gbajabiamila said.