The Nigeria government has warned that the country is sitting on a keg of gunpowder if the issue of fake news is not immediately resolved, insisting on the regulation of social media in the country.
However, the House of Representatives warned against suppressing freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed and the House of Representatives Committee on Information, National Guidance, Ethics, and Values were very divided on the issue on Tuesday.
Mohammed appeared before a committee to defend the 2021 budget proposed by his ministry.
Answering questions from committee members, the minister noted that the next war, which should be fought in the country and worldwide, could be fought on social media, referring to the ongoing #EndSARS protests.
Mohammed said the government does not want to close the country’s social media space because “social media is there to stay.”
However, he stressed the need for a policy regulating social media and checks for fake news and misinformation.
He said: “The biggest challenge Nigeria is facing today is fake news and misinformation. Based on this, we dedicated the entire meeting of the National Information Council to this issue, after which we launched a national campaign against fake news in July 2018.
“Then we said that the next war would take place without a shot being fired, but with the use of false news. We didn’t stop there. We have traveled by all means to seek your support in the fight against fake news. We launched a social media regulation campaign against which the shares were fiercely contested. We have reiterated that they will destroy us if we do not regulate social media. Social media and fake news will not destroy Nigeria.
“The recent #EndSARS war was fought on social media. They mobilized through social media. Today’s war revolves around two things. Smartphones and data, and these young people don’t even watch TV, listen to the radio, or read the newspaper. You will be surprised to discover that when you start arguing with your children, they quote social media. So we need social media policy in Nigeria, we need to empower different agencies, and we need technology to regulate social media.
However, board members warned the minister.
One member, Emmanuel Oghene, warned of any attempt to shut down social media in the country, saying the action would be counterproductive and led young people to believe there was an attempt to undermine democracy in the country.
Oghene said it would be wrong to always look at the negative sides of social media without mentioning the positive side.