Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, has urged the House of Representatives to enact a law to empower the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to regulate all forms of internet broadcasting and social media, including Twitter.
Mohammed made the appeal at the public hearing on a bill to amend the NBC Act organised by the House Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values in Abuja on Wednesday.
The call by the minister comes amid the suspension of Twitter by the Federal Government.
According to the minister, the NBC should have the power to regulate the online media in addition to other channels of broadcasting.
“I want to add here specifically that internet broadcasting and all online media should be included in this because we have a responsibility to monitor contents, including Twitter,” he said.
However, media stakeholders kicked who attended the public hearing opposed the proposal by the minister.
Akin Akingbulu, Executive Director of the Institute for Media and Society, insisted that the NBC should be independent of the Minister of Information and not receive directives from the minister.
“The power to give directives to the commission, vested in the minister of information in section six should be removed and replaced with powers which include policy formulation for the broadcasting sector,” he said.
He added that the minister should be involved in the “negotiation of international agreements, notifying the commission of the policy direction of government and ensuring that the independence of the commission is protected at all times”.
Akingulu also called for the confirmation of the Director-General of the NBC by the National Assembly.
He noted that the inclusion of Twitter and others as “categories of broadcasting services licences will be injurious to the civics space, freedom of expression and media freedom in Nigeria”.
In their joint submission, the International Press Centre (IPC) and the Centre for Media Law and Advocacy said the appointment of the NBC board should be subject to the confirmation of the national assembly.
“The conduct of the NBC has over time presented it as an extension of the minister of information and culture which rarely acts independently,” they said.
The Federal Government announced the suspension of Twitter on 4 June, two days after the microblogging site deleted a tweet of President Muhammadu Buhari after it was deemed to have “violated the Twitter rules”.