President Muhammadu Buhari has distanced himself from the proposed Social Media Bill seeking to restrict Nigerians from “criticizing”, political and public office holders.
- Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, made the official position of the president known in a statement released in Abuja
- He stressed that the president would continue to uphold the dictates of the constitution which guarantees freedom of expression
- According to Shehu, the president is however not “averse to lawful regulation”
President Buhari stated that the principle of the bill, currently being debated in the senate was inconsistent with democratic ideals of free speech enshrined in the constitution of the land.
He added that he had sworn to protect and uphold the dictates of the constitution and would not in any way go against it.
Speaking through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, President Buhari however stated that “he is not averse to lawful regulation,” so long as that is done within the ambit of the constitution which he swore to uphold.
According him, free speech is central to democratic societies anywhere in the world.
“The President won’t assent to any legislation that may be inconsistent with the constitution of Nigeria,” he said.
He further explained that without free speech, elected representatives won’t be able to gauge public feelings and moods about governance issues.
“As a key component of democratic principles are so emotionally attached to free speech that they would defend it with all their might,” he said.
Mallam Garba Shehu explained that President Buhari was fully aware of the public reservations about the proposed legislation but gave the assurance that there was no cause for alarm “because the Senate is a democratic senate.”
What the bill proposes
*Up to seven years in prison or $25,000 (£16,000) fine for “anyone who intentionally propagates false information that could threaten the security of the country or that is capable of inciting the general public against the government through electronic message.”
*Up to years in prison or $10,000 (£6,000) fine or both for “anyone disseminating via text message, Twitter, WhatsApp, or any other form of social media an “abusive statement”
*This also involves messages intending to “set the public against any person and group of persons, an institution of government or such other bodies established by law.”