In this new year, another opportunity has presented itself for the Nigerian Senate to demonstrate its commitment to digital freedom and freedom of expression. If the year 2020 taught us anything, it is the fact that freedom of expression, both online and offline, is critical to deepening our democracy in Nigeria.
In March 2020, the Nigerian people overwhelmingly rejected the ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations and other Related Matters Bill,’ commonly known as the social media bill, but the Senate Committee on Human Rights, Judiciary and Legal Matters led by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele has yet to make its report on the public hearing known to the public, and neither has the Senate killed the bill in its entirety.
The threat that comes with delaying the death of the social media bill is enormous and costly to Nigeria’s democracy. One of the most important things in our democracy is citizens’ right to freedom of expression. The threat of the social media bill to this right contradicts the cherished values and ideals of a democracy and it surely contradicts the ideals of the 21st century. Our democracy dies the day we are no longer able to express ourselves freely.
The Nigerian legislature should be focusing on enacting laws that would bolster digital freedom and the numerous innovative ideas of young people on social media, and not be seen to be seemingly waiting for an opportunity to sinisterly pass bills that threaten digital freedom and freedom of expression.
We, hereby, wish to urge the Nigerian Senate to prioritise killing the social media and hate speech bills this year, 2021. The senate should embrace the chance that 2021 presents to do right by Nigerians. The Nigerian people deserve nothing but a legislature that listens to them and supports their fundamental rights.