Lai Mohammed falsely declares social media bill doesn’t exist, stimulating fury

Nigeria’s Minister of Info, Lai Mohammed, has come under fire after denying the National Assembly is considering an expense to manage the activities of Nigerians on social media.

In an interview with the German broadcaster, DW, aired Thursday, Mr Mohammed said he was speaking “authoritatively” that the questionable “Protection from Web Fallacy and Controls Costs’ was not prior to the National Assembly.

Tim Sebastian, host of the channel’s Conflict Zone, had asked the minister four times about the expense to buttress his argument that the Nigerian federal government had grown intolerant of criticisms, and was clamping down on residents’ basic rights.

Each time, Mr Mohammed responded he did not understand about the infamous legislation and insisted it was not before the parliament.

“I am not even knowledgeable about that costs,” the minister said the very first time, prior to adding: “There is no such expense before your home.”

“I can say authoritatively, there is no such bill,” he verified, appearing to confuse the interviewer.

Mr Mohammed, who has been minister since 2015, was clearly making an incorrect claim. The controversial social networks bill was sponsored by the Niger East senator, Mohammed Musa.

The costs, which seeks to “criminalize making use of the social networks in peddling false or malicious info”, caused a major reaction in 2019 with many Nigerians condemning it.

The costs has actually not been withdrawn yet. If passed and signed into law, it will punish anyone condemned of its arrangements with a N300,000 fine, three years jail time, or both. Business organisations face a fine not exceeding N10 million.

The expense, together with another targeting “hate speech”, has been widely criticised in and beyond Nigeria.Ahead of the introduction of the costs, the federal government through Mr Mohammed had actually pledged to split down on fake news and hate speeches in the nation’s social media area.

Mr Mohammed stated at the time that the government was “working to inject rationality into the social media area in the nation, to tackle fake news and hate speeches spreading out without restriction.”

On November 15, 2019, the information minister held a meeting with the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers in Abuja and said there was no going back on the social media guideline. He said public criticism of the expense will not prevent the government from the plan. The declaration showed the minister knew the bill and even supported it.

When the Nigerian Union of Reporters warned the federal government on the costs, Mr. Mohammed asked NUJ to support the bill because “they will be the first victim when individuals lose self-confidence in the media due to the reckless actions of non-journalists and purveyors of fake news and hate speech.”

He stated the expense did not serve to “suppress free speech or gag reporters” rather “just purveyors of fake news and hate speech need to be stressed.”

“Let me be clear: We are going ahead with our strategy to stop, as much as we can, the anarchists, non-patriots, and purveyors of phony news and hate speech. No responsible government will sit by and enable these purveyors of phony news and hate speech a totally free reign. That’s why many countries of the world are taking measures to manage the social media,” Mr. Mohammed said.

However inquired about the expense on DW, Mr Mohammed denied understanding of the legislation.

Hear the minister:

DW: What likewise stressed individuals tremendously was your decision to submit a bill which in its initial form would have seen anyone founded guilty of so-called hate speech in fact sentenced to death by hanging under specific scenarios. You in fact wanted and you sought permission from parliament to eliminate people because of something they stated. Why would you do a thing like that?

Mohammed: I think what is much more shocking is the lack of knowledge of individuals, there is what is called separation of power in major democracies. This particular bill we are discussing is a bill submitted not by the executive but by the legal arm of federal government. So how can you accuse the executive. We did not submit this costs; it is a personal member’s costs by a senator which is …

DW: And you’re telling me you didn’t desire it to go through, is that right?

Mohammed: Do we have a choice in which costs go through or not? Which expense is being discussed? There’s public hearing. You see the federal government does not come in till when the bill has been passed.

DW: And you didn’t use any influence to get that passed?

Mohammed: Never.

DW: If this costs had gone through minister, journalists could’ve been jailed for any short article deemed threatening abusive or insulting and could’ve been hanged if there were triggered any loss of life. Well you did not object this bill, did you?

Mohammed: You see there is what is called doctrine of separation of power, the only thing you can do as a president is to decline your assent to such a law. The law has actually not been passed, was not stemmed by the executive …

DW: The law is still going through the Senate.

Mohammed: How does Mr. President stop it without being implicated of dictatorship and …

DW: You telling me that you wouldn’t have signed the law with that arrangement in it?

Mohammed: You’re being speculative

DW: You can’t inform me that can you?

Mohammed: You see when we get to that bridge we need to cross it, we look at the contents of the law and what form it would be passed. However you see individuals rush hastily to judgement. You stated we submitted that costs, we did not …

DW: You didn’t want it submitted?

Mohammed: We don’t micromanage the parliament

DW: Truly? What about the security from internet fallacy and adjustments costs, likewise bring drastic provisions, under its terms journalists can be jailed for publishing material.

Mohammed: Who is the author of that expense?

DW: Are you versus this costs or not?

Mohammed: I am not even conscious of that expense

DW: The security from web fallacy and controls expense, you’re not even conscious of it? It is triggering an outcry globally, and you’re the minister of information and you know absolutely nothing about it

Mohammed: There is no such bill before the home

DW: There is a bill.

Mohammed: I can state that authoritatively, there is no such bill before your home.

DW: Press reporters without borders said these expenses talking about the restriction of hate speech expense and the protection from internet fraud and manipulations costs, they state these costs include very severe penalties that breach the international law and are most likely to be utilized to gag the media. And you are stating you understand absolutely nothing about this bill?

Mohammed: I do not.

Nigerians React

The minister’s remarks has actually stimulated anger with numerous Nigerians stating Mr Mohammed was being untruthful.

“The factor Lai Mohammed denied that costs is due to the fact that they know the Costs is an outrageous costs made for shameless males whit fragile egos,” Twitter user, William Ukpe, composed.

Another user, Sandra Ezekwesili, wrote, “Shame on you !! Buhari Minister at it once again. Think of a minister of Details and culture dishing out lies with negligent desert, he has no regard for posterity, disgracing Nigeria before global neighborhood. Lai Mohammed, repent for posterity sakes.”

Pity on you !! Buhari Minister at it once again.
Think of a minister of Info and culture dispensing lies with reckless desert, he has no regard for posterity, disgracing Nigeria prior to global community. Lai Mohammed, repent for posterity sakes.

— Usman Okai Austin (@Oma_igala1) January 31, 2020

Another user, EbongJc, was less dismissive. “Lai Mohammed may be lying,” he stated. “There is no such bill before the Home @nassnigeria.

“Rather of accusing him of lying, should enjoy that the “Restriction of the Hate Speech Costs and Defense from Web Fraud & & Adjustment Bill” DOES NOT EXIST. It’s DEAD.”

This content was originally published here.

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