Tajudeen Abbas, the Nigeria’s Speaker of the House of Representatives, says the green chamber will strengthen legislation against defamation, character assassination and cyberbullying.
The speaker made this known on Thursday at a press conference on pressing national issues held at the National Assembly, in Abuja.
He said the intention of the legislation is not to stifle free speech but to protect the dignity of individuals and institutions against cyberattacks.
He said Nigerians must be wary of slander against officials of government, stressing that unscrupulous persons have, of late, launched campaigns of calumny against top government officials.
He stated that as Nigerians navigate through “these tumultuous times,” the importance of unity and constructive engagement could not be overstated, stressing that the synergy between the three arms of the government – executive, legislative, and judiciary – is paramount.
“For this reason, I call on every citizen to engage in positive and constructive criticism. Your voices and opinions are invaluable, providing the compass that guides our actions and policies. At this juncture, ladies and gentlemen of the press, as the speaker of the House of Representatives, my colleagues and I invite Nigerians to engage critically with us on important national issues. In fact, we encourage and welcome criticisms, but these must be constructive and targeted at building national unity and cohesion and advancing development.
“However, while we encourage freedom of expression and constructive dialogue, we must also be wary of the dangers of fake news and campaigns of slander and defamation, especially against the president and senior government officials.”
The speaker noted that there had been a rise in defamation campaigns on social media involving the deliberate dissemination of false and misleading information with the intent to harm the reputation of individuals or organisations.
According to him, these campaigns often target political opponents, seeking to undermine their credibility, integrity, and public trust.
The speaker cited the recent case of “unjustified and baseless allegations” against the Chief of Staff to the President, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, which he warned “point to the danger of an unfettered and unaccountable social media.”
Abbas cited his predecessor and current Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, as one of the many victims of cyberbullying, defamation and character assassination.
The speaker said cyberbullying is punishable, according to Section 375 of the Criminal Code Act, and Section 24 of the Cybercrime Prohibition and Prevention Act (2015).
“Such acts not only undermine the integrity of our democracy but also erode the fabric of our national unity. Yet, Femi is just one of millions of Nigerians who suffer cyber bullying and coordinated campaigns of defamation daily. Too many victims are not as powerful as him to defend themselves.
“Those of us who have worked with him for over a decade can attest to his patriotism and integrity. His willingness to voluntarily subject himself to investigation by all security and law enforcement agencies demonstrates his rectitude and honour. I urge the security agencies to work diligently and swiftly to investigate all matters he has raised in his letter to them and inform Nigerians of their findings. If not found guilty, these agencies must fish out those responsible for the character assassination and ensure they are brought before the law.” (Independent)