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Nigeria will regulate social media because of China’s success: Lai Mohammed

The information minister makes his case before the parliament for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to be regulated in Nigeria.

• October 27, 2020
Lai Mohammed
Minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed (Photo Credit: Twitter)

Lai Mohammed will not give up on his long-standing quest to control speech in Nigeria. Appearing before the parliament on Tuesday, the Nigerian information minister said the only way to keep citizens’ in check is to replicate China’s draconian crackdown on civil liberties.

Mr. Mohammed’s comments before House members on Tuesday afternoon showed he has no intention of tempering his attack against social media. 

“When we went to China, we could not get google, Facebook, and Instagram,” Mr. Mohammed said before the House information committee as he defended the 2021 budget for his ministry. “You could not even use your email in China because they made sure it is censored and well regulated.” 

Mr. Mohammed spent enormous political capital seeking to control Nigeria’s social media and blogosphere since he was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari, himself a politician with a history of brutally cracking down on journalists and rights activists to curb speech.

His argument is largely hinged on the idea that most citizens cannot distinguish between a genuine, parody or outright fictitious content they consume online. 

Mr. Mohammed’s latest call comes as Nigerians are using social media to rally against decades of police brutality and corruption. 

”They mobilised using social media. The war today revolves around two things. Smartphones and data and these young men don’t even watch television or listen to the radio or read newspapers,” Mr. Mohammed said of the protests. “We are sitting on a time bomb on this issue of fake news.”

Rights advocates have pushed back against attempts by Mr. Mohammed to regulate speech of citizens. His associates in the parliament have also been repeatedly rebuffed, with at least two different bills seeking regulation of social media being shut down since 2015. 

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