There were many indications that the current government of Nigeria is intolerant of media dissent or opposing views and is quite amenable to using the 'law' selectively to silence it. From proposed social media bans (this bill has passed its second reading in the Senate) to a reported ban on online media, the Nigerian government wants to declare an all-out war on the mainstream media.
According to the Nigerian Tribune, the Federal Government has begun 'secret moves' that will see a number of online newspapers, blogs and websites perceived to constitute "threat to national security" permanently shut down. Social media and internet users will not be exempt from this ban.
The Nigerian Tribune claims to have gotten a copy of the memo from the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) issued to a tech firm in Lagos requesting their services to block the domain names of "several identified websites threatening national security under Section 146 of the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003."
The list drawn up by the Office of the National Security Adviser contains more than 21 Nigerian online newspapers and blogs; and was signed by the NCC’s Head, Legal and Regulatory Services, Yetunde Akinloye, and Engineer Haru Alhassan, the Director, New Media and Information Security.
The memo dated October 20, 2017, made reference to another letter from September 27, 2017, directing the contracted firm to restrict access to several websites as identified by the Office of the National Security Adviser. The firm was also asked to restrict access to the websites:
"…is hereby required to immediately take steps to restrict access within the Nigerian cyberspace in respect of 21 (twenty one) additional websites by blocking the domain names. (The list of websites is attached)."
Section 146 of the NCC Act 2003 states:
- A licensee shall use his best endeavor to prevent the network facilities that he owns or provides or the network service, applications service or content application service that he provides from being used in, or in relation to, the commission of any offence under any law in operation in Nigeria.
- A licensee shall, upon written request by the Commission or any other authority, assist the Commission or other authority as far as reasonably necessary in preventing the commission or attempted commission of an offence under any written law in operation in Nigeria or otherwise in enforcing the laws of Nigeria, including the protection of the public revenue and preservation of national security.
- Any licensee, shall not be liable in any criminal proceedings of any nature for any damage (including punitive damages), loss, cost or expenditure suffered or to be suffered (whether directly or indirectly) for any act or omission done in good faith in the performance of the duty imposed under subsections (1) and (2).
So basically, the tech firm was being gently coerced to comply. However, Nigeria's Minister of Communications, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu, said he was not aware any memo originated from the NCC instructing any firm to gag the press, particularly the online newspapers, internet and social media users or shut them down. The Tribune has not yet made the memo available publicly.
The National Broadcasting Commission on its own part set revised guidelines for TV and Radio stations back in August, some of which included limiting Newspaper reviews, screening callers and fining stations N500,000 ($1,402) for allowing callers air "hate speech."