CYber Crime Bill: We Are All Going To Jail By Kayode Badmus
Just when the dust is yet to settle on the recently signed anti-gay law which has thrown Nigeria into the black books of some western countries, here comes yet another controversial bill which seeks to jail anyone who insults or abuses someone else using the social media (infact internet in general). As an individual who supported the controversial “jail the gays” law, I am totally dumb founded as to whatever might have influenced this bill.
When I initially heard there was a cyber crime bill in the house, I practically celebrated for what I described as a final solution to the internet fraud or is it “yahoo yahoo” menace. Unknown to me, I was actually celebrating what would in reality throw a whole lot of us, perhaps I inclusive behind bars. The law in its section 18 sub-section 1 for instance states that “anybody who insults publicly, through a computer system or network commits an offense and will be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than five years or to a fine of not less than N10m or to both fine and imprisonment”.
Wikipedia explains an insult to be “an expression, statement (or sometimes behavior) which is considered degrading, offensive and impolite. Insults may be intentional or accidental. An insult may also be factual”. This means merely telling your friend “you dey crase or you are stupid” could simply land you in jail for 5years.
For those who have made criticizing “our leaders” a daily routine, then Kirikiri or perhaps Ikoyi prisons is your next home.
Recently words like “witless”, “confused”, “stupid”, “foolish” etc has continually been used upon our Abuja leader (let me start learning how to “insult” with scope), ofcourse these are known as insults and again, a whole lot of us are guilty of this offense which absolutely means…well your guess is as good as mine.
Now here is the major bombshell, the law further recommends a death sentence to “anyone who commits an offence against what it calls critical national information infrastructure which results in death” whatever that means.
This bill however confirmed my fears that it was a political tool of witch-hunting when in Part V, Section four, it was prescribed that “the Office of the National Security Adviser shall be the co-coordinating body for all security and enforcement agencies”. Now the Ogundamisis, Omojuwas and El-Rufais of this world should better take cover.
Its rather sad and pathetic that in this era when there is a huge lacuna between ‘the Governors and the Governed’ and the social media has turned into a tool of expressing the citizens’ plight, the government of the day still believe that rather than enact laws that would propagate good governance which would directly affect positively those with whom they have a social contract, they only intend hunting down perceived political distractors (cum enemies). A lot of roads in the country are death traps, electricity is in a state of comatose, the aviation industry has made obituary printers sell more than ever, employment is only seen to have been given when our government states their score card, militants get paid better than the graduates, doctors are always threatening to go on strike, undergraduates now spend double the required period studying a course and worse of all the Northern Boko haram menace, yet this government would abandon all these to deal with those abusing themselves on facebook or twitter. I wonder in what category they would put a Maheeda or Afrocandy.
It should be expected that the Nigerian Police Force would now have an internet watch department to apprehend those who defaults. What a shame, a police officer situated to check all day Nigerians using insulting words on the internet. What a lackadaisical effort! I bet you, Police stations across the country would on daily basis be filled with “criminals” who insults others on the internet and most of these people would go to jail because the specified fine is even pegged at 10million naira. Walai, We are all going to jail!
Kayode Badmus (an unemployed Journalist and Political Scientist) lives in Lagos.
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