The President Muhammadu Buhari-led Nigerian government has asked the House of Representatives to enact a law to regulate social and online media in Nigeria.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed asked the federal lawmakers to amend the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act to empower the Commission to regulate social and online media.
The minister pushed for this at a public hearing organised by the lawmakers on Wednesday through its House Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics, and Values.
According to the minister, the commission should also be able to regulate online media in addition to other channels of broadcasting.
Section two (b) of the NBC Act states: “(1) The Commission shall have [the] responsibility of Receiving, processing and considering applications for the establishment, ownership or operation of radio and television stations including (i) cable television services, direct satellite broadcast and any other medium of broadcasting.”
But Mohammed said, “I want to add here specifically that internet broadcasting and all online media should be included in this because we have a responsibility to monitor contents, including Twitter.”
It can be recalled that NBC had asked social media platforms and online broadcasting service providers in Nigeria to apply for broadcast licences.
The Buhari regime recently banned the microblogging platform, Twitter in Nigeria, saying it threatens the corporate existence of the country.
Despite pressure from within Nigeria and internationally on the Buhari government to reverse the ban, it has refused to do so.
Also at the public hearing, many stakeholders kicked against the move by the government.
They asked the House Committee to make NBC more independent of the information ministry.
SaharaReporters had reported that media organisations, personnel, and workers who violate sections of the amended National Broadcasting Commission Act, which is still being considered by the National Assembly, will get a one-year jail term, in addition to other punishments, based on the proposal of the government.
SaharaReporters obtained the Bill for the amendment of the NBC Act CAP N11, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2010, which spelt out that the NBC now has powers to enforce jail terms on violators in addition to fines for breaching any of its provisions.
The bill which is going for public reading is an “Act for the Amendment of the National Broadcasting Commission Act, CAP N11, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2010 to strengthen the commission and make it more effective for the commission to regulate broadcasting in Nigeria and for related matters.”
The bill seeks to amend Section 2 of the Principal Act, saying, “The Section 2 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by totally deleting the existing Section 2 by replacing it or substituting it with a new Section 2 and 2A which shall read as follows;
“Receive, process, and consider the applications for the establishment, ownership, and operation of radio, television stations including; …online news; regulating and controlling the broadcasting industry; regulate digital based broadcasting such as online news and digital terrestrial television, etc.”
Checks by SaharaReporters into the bill showed that another section stated that “any person who acts in breach of the subsection 1 of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to; one, a fine not less than the fee for the relevant licence; two, imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year; three, both fine and imprisonment and four; forfeiture to the commission of the property, facilities, installations and equipment used for the provision and operation of the unlicensed service.”