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Stats: 17,521 members, 69,867 Topics, 15,483 Comments. Date: Jun 27 2019, 1:04 pm

Rufai Oladimeji
Lagos State University
English
100Level, Nigeria.
The State Security Service on Wednesday
announced a nationwide crackdown on
individuals allegedly caught posting inciting
materials on the Internet, in a move that could
provoke fresh debates about the potency of
Nigerian Constitution’s free speech safeguards.

The SSS said it had recently observed that
some social media users were skewing Nigeria’s
history to promote ethnic violence and tip the
nation into crisis, a development it said must
be urgently reversed through state
interference.

The secret police’s spokesperson, Peter
Afunanya, said in a statement to PREMIUM
TIMES that some “unpatriotic” Nigerians have
been using social media platforms to make
“unguarded public statements and/or use the
social media platforms to instil fear in the
minds of citizens”.

“These are reflected in the misleading
statements and articles being circulated among
unsuspecting members of the public. Such
inciting materials oftentimes are designed to
make or convey false accusations by one group
against the other.

“They also resort to skewing historical
narratives to suit their objective of
masterminding ethnic violence in the nation.
So far, some of the culprits have been
arrested,” Mr Afunanya said.

The SSS said it was “determined to ensure that
the tribal chauvinists and mischief makers do
not continue to exploit socio-political
differences and Internet platforms to threaten
the peace and stability of the country.”
The service said regional and community elders
should not only desist from making
“unguarded statements” but also help shut
down all ethnically-charged rhetoric by
persons in their respective domains.

The SSS vowed to “sustain the apprehension
and prosecution of defaulters,” because it
would not relent in its quest to prevent crimes
and keep Nigeria as an indivisible country.

Mr Afunanya told PREMIUM TIMES in a follow-
up conversation that he would make available
the identities of those arrested and from which
parts of the country.

While it may generate outrage for the manner
it was executed, the crackdown did not come
in isolation or as a surprise to Internet and
free speech advocates.

The Nigerian government has invested heavily
in tracking tools to keep social media users in
check, even though the practise remained
largely non-transparent and constitutionally
problematic.

“It is a development that does does not come
as a surprise,” Adeboye Adegoke, an Internet
rights expert with Paradigm Initiative, told
PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday morning.
“The
foundation for this was laid in the past three-
two five years with investments in monitoring
and policing speech by the Nigerian
government.”
Mr Adegoke described the SSS’ action as scary
and aimed at fostering an atmosphere of fear
amongst Nigerians online.

“What we are seeing is a scary dive dive into a
climate of fear, a chilling effect in which case
citizen will have to think twice before sharing
opinion especially those opinions that do not
paint the incumbent in good light.”

The analyst said the government has exploited
its monopoly over national security to assume
a controversial position as the arbiter of
patriotism and seditious acts.

“The Constitution is clear on the rights of
citizens to express opinions. The government
does not have to like such opinions,” Mr
Adegoke said.

The expert said the SSS should promptly
publish details of the arrests, but Nigerians
should not wait before condemning repressive
acts that erode civil liberties.

“The country is gradually becoming a place
where speech is being policed and everyone
who cares about civil liberty should not only
be worried but resist attempts by the state to
cow citizens into submission to state-defined
‘patriotism’ or ‘hate speech.”

www.independent.ng/breaking-dss-declares-nationwide-crackdown-on-social-media-users

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