…Senate has Never Assumed the Position of Knowing All, Senate President
…Bill is not out to Mussle Free Speech, not out to block your Social Media, Sponsor
By Henry Umoru
COORDINATOR, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, Clement Nwankwo has called for the jettisoning of a bill that will regulate the use of social media in Nigeria, entitled, Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill.
Speaking at the ongoing Public Hearing on the Social Media Bill, Nwankwo said that the Bill is completely unnecessary against the backdrop that Nigeria has existing laws that should be used rather than a new one.
The Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters chaired by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele is at the moment organising a public hearing on a “A Bill for an Act to Make Provisions for the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations and for related matters, 2019( SB.132)”
In his remarks, Sponsor of the Bill and Chairman, Committee on Senate Services, Senator Mohammed Sani Musa, All Progressives Congress, APC, Niger East said that the Bill is not designed to muddle up the freedom of speech of Nigerians, adding that nobody would block the Social Media of any Nigerian.
According to him, the Bill is not out to stop Nigerians from criticizing the government.
Declaring open the Public Hearing, President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan who noted that the Senate has never assumed the Position of Knowing it all, said, “this hearing is a crucial one because the Bill has generated a lot of passion.
“The passion is not unexpected because the Bill relates to the Internet. The Internet has become central to our lives, as it has reshaped how we live, work and how we interact.
“Like every other innovation, it has had its positive and negative sides. While it has somewhat made communication easier, faster and even cheaper, it has also affected our ability to easily trust some information.
“When this kind of situation arises, we should interrogate all the sides in the divides on a continuous basis. Doing this will lead to a better understanding of the dimensions and provide an agreeable way forward.
“The Senate, and indeed the National Assembly have never assumed the position of knowing it all. Our rules and procedures do not even envisage a position where we will arrogate to ourselves knowledge of everything.
“It was for this reason that we were prompt in referring the protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations and for Related Matters Bill, 2019 (sb.132), to the relevant committee last November.
“And it is pursuant to our procedure to open up discussions that we have invited you all. In assembling here today however, we need to remember that there are multiple positions on every argument.
“This implies that we should not just be open minded and dispassionate, but should be ready to hear the other side, no matter how strong we feel about our own position.
“It is trite to say that information and knowledge grow in an atmosphere of listening and sharing. When we listen, we put ourselves on a better ground to reasonably agree or disagree, because our own understanding would have grown.
“When we are intolerant of an opposing view, we will not be able to relate with the message of the speaker. Disagreement comes thereafter, and it will prevent us from having a clearer roadmap.
“I agree that matters of freedom of speech and the inalienable rights of man are issues we should not compromise. I also agree that the right of an individual ends where the rights of another individual begins.
“The rope between the freedom of an individual and the limits of that individual is often a tight one to walk. As a people however, we cannot stop discussing this freedom and its limitations for peace and harmony, growth and development.
“I am assured that with the people carefully invited here today, we are in a good position to proffer well-reasoned arguments on way forward on the Bill.
“The Senate’s eventual position will be partly dependent on the Committee’s report. Your support in enriching this report is therefore very important.”