The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has warned that henceforth, internet users that spread hate messages and false news will be arrested and imprisoned or pay the fine of N25 million.
Disclosing this at a one day roundtable meeting with bloggers, online newspaper and related social media users organised by National Orientation Agency (NOA) on Tuesday in Abuja, Idris noted that cybercrime law of 2015 contains the punishment of spreading hate speech or fake news.
Represented by Kondom Joseph, the Inspector General of Police stated that, “It is sad to note that the many public officers who have been threatening to deal ruthlessly with the excesses of social media operators have not familiarised themselves with the provisions of the two-year old law.”
According to him, “it is high time the attention of Nigerian was drawn to sections 24 and 26 of the Act which provides that, 24 (1) Any person who knowingly or intentionally sends a message or other matter by means of computer systems or network that is grossly offensive, pornographic or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character or causes any such message to be send.”
“Or he knows to be false, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another or causes such a message to be; commits an offence under this Act. In the case of paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subsection to imprisonment for a term of 10 years and/or a minimum fine of N25, 000, 000.00,” Idris stated.
In his remarks, the Director General of National Orientation Agency (NOA), Garba Abari noted that, “the world over, history is replete with heroic strides the media has recorded in nation building and Nigeria is no exception.”
He stated that the vibrancy of every democracy is measured by the freedom the media enjoys.” Be assured that this administration is committed to preserving the freedom of the press. We must however be reminded that as a worthy partner in the art of governance, a free and responsible press,” Garba noted.
The DG explained that, “In recognition of the critical role of the media in promoting peaceful coexistence and national development within the context of democratic governance, the National Orientation Agency, in its continuous engagement with this critical sector of national development, establish effective platforms for countering the current spate of hate speeches and fake news which are capable of inflaming the polity.”
He said the Agency has effectively engage the media in the various on-going memory-healing and reconciliation programs and processes in the localities recovering from devastation arising from insurgency and terrorism.
“While significant gains have been recorded in this respect, the emergence and activities of the new media has thrown up great concerns within the social space.”
Abari explained that these concerns about the social media are genuine for obvious reasons giving its ambivalent character, both as a potent tool for promoting transparency, accountability and national peace and unity, on the one hand, and on the other, for promoting hatred, divisiveness and civil unrest, depending on the user and the motive.
He urged all media practitioners to put Nigeria first in the course of their job as it will go a long way in curbing hate messages in the country.