Jail For Social Media Activists In Nigeria: You Can Do Better – Japheth J Omojuwa

The Nigerian Senate is working hard to justify its usefulness. Who would blame them? Another round of N150 billion is around the corner to be shared. Never mind the unending corruption in the nation’s political class that has seen the nation’s continued poor ranking on the global corruption index. One would hope that one day the Senate would do something about the 10.5 million Nigerian children out of school and the 1 million or so that join them every year. One would pray for the day the Senate would prove its usefulness by contributing to efforts to keep the Executive arm of government truly accountable, instead of cosmetic appearances and shakedowns that are referred to as probes in the newspapers. One day our Senate will declare a war against poverty and destitution as the numbers exceed the population of all other African countries. We pray that one day the Senate will remember nursing mothers and also help to deal with issues of Nigeria’s maternal mortality rate, which is one of the highest in the world. The Nigerian Senate truly cares and it is taking the issues step by step; the first on the agenda is a 7 year jail them for Nigerians who use social media and other internet platforms to challenge the government to be better. A tweet against the government could land you in jail for 7 years or if rich enough could have you pay a fine of N5 million.

Posited as a bill against Internet fraudsters and renowned Yahoo-Yahoo boys and girls, the bill apparently has social media citizens as its focus. The joint Senate Committees on Judiciary, Human Rights and legal matters, Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes led by Senator Umaru Dahiru (PDP, Sokoto), is working on the bill for an act to provide for the prohibition and punishment for electronic fraud and crime in all electronic transactions in Nigeria.?Section 13 subsection 3 reads: “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 shall be guilty of an offense and upon conviction shall be sentenced to seven years imprisonment or N5 million (fine).”

If the bill could be applied retrospectively, someone like myself would have to hand himself over to the police. I used to send tweets that incite the public against the government and by God’s grace I hope to do better. To incite far more people than I have ever been able to.

You can bet an average Nigerian would be desperate to see the Senate come up with a law that deals with and helps to curb the activities of Internet fraudsters. They have done more than enough damage to the Nigerian brand. But Nigeria being what it is, the motive of the Senators has little or nothing to do with the Internet Fraudsters, it has everything to do with gagging the voice of citizens online.

When a despotic government wants to set a trap for activists and critics, they come up with laws that posit national security as being at risk when the government is criticized. National security has always been the biggest excuse for which Nigeria has been defrauded. The value of that fraud on the current national budget is as almost N1 trillion in the face of zero national security and hundreds of billions of budgetary allocations. The other side of national security is it being the readily available excuse to jail activists and citizens critical of government.

The die is now cast. The government through the weaker and more superfluous arm of the National Assembly – The Senate, has now come out to set an agenda for the defeat of active citizens on social media who are mostly young people. This was always going to come seeing the increasing influence social media has had on Nigeria since the Occupy Nigeria movement.

It is this writer’s hope that the law will be hastened and passed with immediate alacrity. This is so that the Senate can focus on less important things like corruption amongst its own members, corruption in the executive, continued distribution of poverty amongst Nigerians and the continued display of its own uselessness in the face of the nation’s need for accountability and transparency in the fight against corruption that we hope will start once all these social media critics go to jail. 7 years is quite short because then they miss one World Cup or depending on the year of being jailed, two World Cups. That is certainly less than the 2 years Chief Olabode George got for stealing public funds. The 7 years for social media critics is less than the few months DSP Alamieyesegha finally spent in jail after being convicted of stealing billions. Thankfully, great Nigerians like the fugitive DSP Alamieyesegha will find themselves in the Senate by 2015. He will be at home in the midst of most of the characters there. Who knows, he will help increase the years to 70 years. After all, those who defend their rights and the rights of the people are the criminals, those who steal all the money and milk the people dry are the Lawmakers. This is Nigeria and it is what it is. I can’t wait to go to jail.

What is Progressive about the APC if one of its Senators thinks gagging Nigerians on social media is the way forward to fixing Nigeria’s myriad of issues?

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