Lai Mohammed, minister of information, has described the #EndSARS protest as a “war” fought with the aid of social media.
When he appeared before the House committee on information, national orientation, ethics and values to defend the 2021 budget proposed by his ministry, on Tuesday, Mohammed said it is highly important to regulate social media.
The minister said although the government is not seeking to shut down social media “because the social media has come to stay,” there is need to check its excesses due to the rise in fake news and misinformation.
“The biggest challenge facing Nigeria today is fake news and misinformation,” he said.
“Based on that, we dedicated an entire national council on information’s meeting to that issue, after which we launched a national campaign against fake news in July 2018.
“We said, then, that the next war will be fought without a shot being fired, but with the use of fake news.
“We didn’t stop there. We went on a tour of all media houses to solicit their support in the fight against fake news. We launched the campaign to regulate social media, which was bitterly contested by the stakeholders. We kept saying that if we don’t regulate social media, it will destroy us. Social media and fake news will not destroy Nigeria.
“The recent #EndSARS war was fought on social media. They mobilised using social media. The war today revolves around two things; smartphone and data. And these young men don’t even watch television or listen to radio or read newspapers.
“You will be shocked that when you start arguing with your children, they will be quoting social media. So, we need a social media policy in Nigeria and we need to empower the various agencies and we need technology to be able to regulate social media.”
However, members of the house committee were divided against the minister.
Emmanuel Oghene, a member of the committee, cautioned against any attempt to shut down social media, saying the youth may see it as an attempt to truncate the nation’s democracy.
Oghene said although social media has its negative sides, it also has advantages.
In August, Ajibola Basiru, spokesman of the senate, said lawmakers in the upper legislative chamber are not planning to pass a bill to regulate social media.