The All Progressive Congress (APC) administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has no plan to place any form of embargo on the use of social media platforms by Nigerians to air their views on the socio-political and economic development of the country, the Minister of Communications, Mr Adebayo Shittu has assured.
Shiitu said Thursday in Abuja that “Government will not limit Nigerians’ access to social media solely on the basis that it may be used to express views critical of the government or the social-political system “.
“Protecting critical expression on the internet is the standard by which governments are now held to be genuinely democratic.
Nigerians should, therefore, feel free to discuss government policies and engage in responsible political debates; report corruption and exercise their right to expression of opinion and dissent. Government will defend and keep to its commitment to human rights, transparency, rule of law and accountability,” the Minister asserted.
Shittu made the remarks at the opening ceremony of a two-day Ministerial Retreat on Social Media for Good Governance organised by DigitalAfrica in conjunction with Ministry of Communications for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) stakeholders at The Treasure Hotel, Abuja.
He said: “Government will proactively propound free and secure policies that ensure use of technology based platforms of interaction in the social media.
“The Buhari administration’s activities are being delivered by leveraging ICTs; better still, government activities are enhanced by the adoption of new media tools that provide interactive and instantaneous feedback on achievements of government as presented by the various MDAs”.
According to the Minister “about 75% of Nigeria’s online population uses social media; and the number keeps growing on both social networking sites and blogging sites growingby around 70% in the last year.
“Time spent grew by 82% within the same period (Nielsen study 2016). The size of social media, taken as a whole, can be overwhelming. As of June 2016, there are about 80 million tweets per day. Facebook chat usage is currently over 1 billion messages daily according to the Nielsen report of 2016”.
Speaking further on the significance of social media in modern world, the minister said “From the Arab Spring in Egypt, to our 2015 General elections, the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and the recent US Presidential elections, the growing importance of Social media in shaping society and how it is governed can neither be overemphasis nor underplayed.
“In Nigeria where our youth constitute more than 50% of our over 180 million population, the social media has become too critical to be ignored or undermined.
“On the other hand, social media can also be nuisance to the government and society at large. Mudslinging, hate speech, cyber bullying, rants and unbridled ventilation of anger are common features in these platforms.
“It is therefore very necessary to moderate these counter-effects to promote positive, development-driven and responsible social media usage platforms.
“There are however, some challenges to moderating social media platforms:lack of effective Legislation; abuse of political gains; use of Fake ID’s; and cross-border Threats (Cybercrime and other security concerns). “