Nigeria: Govt Will Not Restrict Access to Social Media - Minister

16 November 2017

The Minister of Communications Adebayo Shittu has said the Federal Government or any of its agencies will not restrict access of Nigerians to social media.

But the minister quickly added that the social media space must be regulated to guard against abuse and hate speech.

Shittu disclosed this on Thursday in Abuja during a "Social Media for Good Governance" retreat organized by Federal Ministry of Communications".

Shittu said that the retreat would expose all the options government can explore to promote good governance in Nigeria.

According to him, "Social media has suddenly turned most people who are not trained to journalists. It is important for government to pay attention to feedbacks from Social media, review good practices and discuss issues relating to effective use of social media in Nigeria."

He said: "Government will not limit Nigerians' access to social media simple because of abuses. Nigerians must use it to express their views. Government will ensure easy interactive platform for the dissemination of its achievements.

"The ministry is committed to new ways of dissemination of information so that the people will have easy access to government programme. That is why we are pushing e-governance.

"The parochial, religious and ethnic use of social media should be checked. Only an irresponsible government will allow unguarded use of social media.

"Operators must check the use of social media because most inter-tribal war, violence is as a result of unhealthy and irresponsible communication.

"If we cannot control its activities, then we don't even need the police force or the security agencies rather we shall return to the state of nature and there will be the survival of the strongest" Shittu stated.

He maintained that youths have remained very vocal in the social media and everywhere, they make their views known.

He pointed out that some of the revolutions that shaped nations like the Arab spring, the 2015 general election in Nigeria including the Brexit were decided on the social media. He said that government cannot afford to ignore social media because most people have limitless access to the platform.

However Shittu noted that the social media has also become a tool for hate speeches and false information which must be checked through proper legislation.

The Minster that some of the challenges ministry intends to propose as regulation in the social media space the use fake identity, strong legislation, effective use of broad band network. Government he insists, "must use the social media as a means to improve governance, government officials must open access to information".

According to Shittu, by conducting its transactions through the social media government saves time and money. It also creates new ways of working like e-commerce, e-payment and e-governance.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Alhaji Abdullahi Mashi represented by Mrs Moni Udoh, was of the view that Social media is perhaps the most novel development in recent time, hence government cannot ignore it.

"People use it to voice their concern, share their views and it has be one strong voice used to address government issues

"The use of social media for hate speeches and false news should not be encouraged. Such acts must be condemned and sanctioned.

"Social media must be used to promote good governance. The ethnic coloration of Social media must be discouraged", he said.

Director of Public Affairs, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Tony Ojobo explained that the root of all crises "is when there is a disconnect between the people giving out the message and the recipient."

Ojobo stressed that the means and channel of communication is as important adding that "the messenger and the message must be in sinc".

He advocated for more synergy between government institution and the public, adding that effective governance cannot be achieved now without the use of the social media.

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