Festus Keyamo, the minister of state for labour and employment, on Saturday said the
deactivation of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Twitter accounts by handlers of the social networking apps should reignite efforts by the Nigerian government to control speech in the country.
Keyamo said that just as the U.S. leader was sanctioned for reportedly inciting Americans through “hate speech,” peddlers of dubious claims should be prepared for the consequences in Nigeria.
“There is always a thin line between free speech and irresponsible and dangerous hate speech. Donald Trump was restricted because he lied and fermented hate speech. I don’t want social media to be restricted but it should not be a platform that is capable of destroying the country,”the minister said.
“Don’t make unfounded claims in Nigeria. If you do, be prepared to defend yourself and be ready to face the consequences,” the minister warned.
The Buhari administration has persevered in its long-standing quest to censor the social media in Nigeria, hinging its purported misuse on the proliferation of hate speech.
Buhari’s administration officials have repeatedly disregarded mounting evidence of a deadly military crackdown on unarmed civilians protesting against decades of police brutality at the Lekki toll plaza late October.
Multiple video evidences of the fatal shooting of scores of #EndSARS campaigners singing the national anthem by troops of the Nigerian Army, have been labelled as “fake news” by high ranking government officials, who insistently claim that the horrific massacre only took place on social media.
Reiterating this position, Keyamo, however, argued that the ideology which propelled the #EndSARS agitation was founded on falsehood.
“What happened that triggered #EndSARS and cost the nation billions in destruction and human lives was based on a pure lie,” Kayemao told PeoplesGazette.
The minister stressed that instigators of the of the violence that broke out in the wake of the now rested nationwide protest will be prosecuted.
“In America, those who attacked the Capitol and the person who incited them are being punished. But here in Nigeria, we are calling for those who incited #EndSARS protesters into killing and maiming so many people to be freed. It won’t happen,” Keyamo said.
Many Nigerians have expressed worry that the Buhari administration could leverage the ‘Trump experience’ to legitimise its rationale for censoring free speech in Nigeria, as rights advocates continue to push back against a proposed legislation before the country’s parliament seeking regulation of the social media.