Oghenevwede Ohwovoriole in Abuja
The Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, has stated that government is committed to enhancing its institutional presence on the internet so that all Nigerians regardless of their social or demographic status can have unfiltered access to government information and services.
He stated this in his keynote address while declaring open the ministryâ€™s retreat on the social media with the theme: â€˜Social Media for Good Governanceâ€™ in Abuja on Thursday.
â€œThe ministry is committed to enhancing the institutional presence of government on the internet so that all Nigerians regardless of their social or demographic status can have ubiquitous access to government information and services,â€ he stated.
The minister stated that the retreat was designed to share knowledge and information stemming from recent research and analysis on social media; review good practice on policies and programmes promoting social media for good governance as well as discuss issues relating to effective use of social media in Nigeria.
He added: â€œParticularly worthy of note is the fact that worldwide, the youth are the most active on social media platforms through which they have made their opinions known and their voices load in various countries.
â€œFrom the Arab Spring in Egypt to our 2015 general elections; the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and the recent United States presidential elections, the growing importance of social media in shaping society and how it is governed can neither be overemphasis nor underplayed.
â€œIn Nigeria where our youths constitute more than 50 percent of our over 180 million population, the social media have become too critical to be ignored or undermined.â€
He also stated that the social media can also be nuisance to the government and society at large if not moderated.
â€œOn 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.
â€œIt is therefore very necessary to moderate these counter-effects to promote positive, development-driven and responsible social media usage platforms,â€™â€™ the minister said.
He mentioned some challenges to moderating social media platforms to include lack of effective legislation; abuse of political gains; use of fake IDâ€™s and cross-border threats (cybercrime and other security concerns).
Shittu added: â€œHence, whereas social media has become an important tool in expressing public opinion at one side, it has also become a challenging factor for the government due to its opaque and less effective framework.
â€˜It is an amalgam of different services/ websites, available on different platforms such as mobile phones and Personal Computers (PC), both with MRT sets of attributes.â€
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on ICT, Mr. Lanre Osibona, told the gathering that the government never intended to control, monitor or restrict the social media.
He said the only thing the government wanted to do then was to make sure that people do not use the social media to cause confusion in the country as people were posting fake news, pictures and videos that were not real and were capable of causing social disorder.