There are no new regulations to monitor phone calls and trawl through what Nigerians do on social media, the Federal Government has said. A trending message which was ‘’falsely’’ attributed to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, said there would be new communication regulations “from tomorrow”. The message claimed the government would be monitoring phone calls and social media, warning Nigerians to be more careful of what they post or say on social media.
But the minister, through a statement signed by his spokesperson, Uwa Suleiman, on Sunday dissociated himself from the message, saying it is fake news. “The attention of the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) has been drawn to a misleading message purportedly authored by him, currently trending on social media. “The fake news is circulating a message which implies that all devices are now connected to the Ministry’s systems and that effective tomorrow, it will commence the recording of phone calls and the monitoring of all social media platforms and fora.
“The malicious message also further discourages citizens from sharing any messages or videos with political or religious content as it is now officially a crime and could even lead to arrest. “The Honourable Minister enjoins all Nigerians, to disregard the propaganda which is aimed at inciting fear and creating public confusion,” the statement reads.
A bill seeking to criminalise spreading of fake news in the country is currently before the National Assembly. But many opposition figures and civil society groups had said the bill was an attempt by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to crackdown on divergent voices. When passed and signed into law, the proposed legislation would slam stiff fines or impose long jail term on any individual found guilty of spreading whatever the authorities deem as fake news.