Mixed reactions have followed the renewed call for the regulation of social media by Femi Gbajabiamila, the chief of staff to President Bola Tinubu, saying it has become a societal menace.
Gbajabiamila expressed this view while representing Tinubu at the public presentation of a book titled “Nigerian Public Discourse: The Interplay of Empirical Evidence and Hyperbole,” authored by Babatunde Fashola, former minister of works and housing, in Lagos.
The statement, issued by Tunde Alao, the senior special assistant to Governor Babajide Sa’
nwo-Olu (Media), Office of the Lagos State Deputy Governor, quoted Gbajabiamila as emphasising the potential dangers of disseminating information globally through social media.
The statement highlighted Tinubu’s commitment to evidence-based discussion and data-reliant decision-making for policy formulation and execution. Gbajabiamila stressed the government’s obligation to ensure shared agreement on truth and reality in engagements with citizens.
“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 quoted Gbajabiamila as saying.
Notably, in October 2023, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project urged Senate President Godswill Akpabio and Tajudeen Abbas, speaker of the House of Representatives, to reject a reintroduced social media regulation bill. SERAP argued that the bill could unduly restrict freedom of expression and privacy rights and called on Tinubu’s administration to halt efforts compelling technological firms to restrict fundamental human rights.
However, many Nigerians have reacted to the statement made by the chief of staff to the president. While some commended him, others roundly condemned him.
Reacting to the development of his X account, a legal practitioner, Festus Ogun, said, “What again is there to be ‘regulated’ after the enactment of the Cybercrimes Act? Freedom of expression is always under threat under a corrupt and autocratic regime.”
Another user, Nicholas Ibekwe, said, “These guys are so relentless in stripping you of your freedom to call them out. That is what this is about. If you see it any other way, you are being insincere.”
“You need first to regulate your primitive accumulative tendencies, regulate your bogus salary and allowances, regulate your unproductivity which is directly linked to the suffering of the people before you contemplate regulating social media,” Kingsley Maximo said.
Agreeing with the statement, another user, Shakirat Oluwatosin Raji, said, “I agree. And the Cyber Crime Act should be more effective.”
“You can make arguments for/against this. It all depends on the content of the regulation.
However, I think people should face civil liability or social media lawsuits. If you publish defamatory statements or material misstatement of facts against someone, you should face the consequences of your actions if you refuse to withdraw such statements.
We see far too many slanders and false statements on social media. But, if we are bantering football, abeg leave us alone,” another X user, Enwagboso, said.