It may not necessarily be a case of square peg in a round hole but it was so shocking to industry stakeholders yesterday when the Minister for Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu,revealed that he was yet to read the anti social media bill.
What makes it all the more surprising is not only that the minister is a renowned lawyer but also that this bill has its direct impact, whether positive or negative on the industry which the minister was newly appointed to spearhead.
Sponsored under a disguised title ‘Bill for an act to prohibit frivolous petitions and other related matters connected therewith ‘ by the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah who represents Kebbi South senatorial district, the bill has all the ingredients to silence the flamboyant voice of the masses who freely air their views on numerous social media platforms and apparently dampen the impact such people made recently dethroning an incumbent government and enthroning an entirely new one.
It not only seeks to gag the press in a democratic dispensation, but obnoxiously prescribes two year jail term for offenders, with the option of N2 million fine, or both sanctions applied.
The bill itself has attracted wide condemnation and has become such an issue that it becomes obviously shocking that a ‘learned’ minister in the sector hosting the debate is yet to read its contents.
Shittu was in Lagos on a working visit, where he paid a courtesy visit and tour to the Factories of Omatek technologies. Immediately after, he was to chat with Technology journalists.
Part of the questions from journalist was to know his take on the bill and this was his answer: “As I am speaking to you now, I haven’t read the bill yet. So I am not fully aware of it’s contents. But what I will say is that there is no human activity that should be left completely unregulated. The burden of governance is to balance rights to ensure that one person’s right does not infringe on another’s. Even things as private as marriage have laws governing them. Social media is just evolving, so it follows that there hasn’t been enough time to make laws regulating it.”
Before this, there were already concerns that he may have not been fitter for that ministry with a background in law rather than a technology related one. But it appeared he was well aware of such concerns because he addressed it thus: “I will be the first to admit that I am a complete migrant into this field, but that, in my opinion, is an advantage. In the short while since my appointment, I have attended over ten conferences and have been surrounded by experts in the field. I am open to working with these experts and learning from them. I think a neutral person like myself is the best person for this position, I have no prejudices, so like a judge, I’m in the best position to make the right decisions.”
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