The Federal Government said yesterday that placing Twitter on an indefinite suspension was a hard decision to take because of its importance as information dissemination and business channel.
It also restated that 476 online media outlets were working hard to pull down the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed stated this at a meeting of the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF) with information managers of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the federal and state levels in Lagos. The meeting was also an avenue to identify challenges facing information managers and chart better ways of pushing positive narratives about the government.
Mohammed spoke on ‘Mitigating Contemporary Challenges of Information and Communication Management – Regulatory Issues and Requirement.’
Host Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu used the opportunity to reassure residents of his government’s determination to do more to meet their yearnings
Mohammed said: “It was a tough decision(suspension of Twitter) to take, considering that many of our youths also use the platform for business
He identified poor funding, new digital media and lack of synergy among information managers of government as some of the challenges to be overcome before the war against misinformation could be won.
His words: “Perhaps, the most daunting task anyone can take on, in this age and time, is that of information and communication management. It is even more daunting when you are engaged in information and communication management for a reformist government like ours.
“While the task of government information and communication management is daunting in normal times, today, with the advent of new information and digital technology, the word ‘daunting’ becomes an understatement.
“We daily face challenges posed by the new information and digital technology. Government information managers face the paradox of technology.
“On one hand, information, and digital technology provide us with great opportunities, and on the other hand, it is fraught with great challenges. We are therefore tasked, daily, with how to balance this paradox and make the best of it.
“The social media is a double-edged sword, providing opportunities and challenges, perhaps in equal measures. We recently had to suspend the operations of Twitter because of the threat posed by the gross abuse of the platform to the nation’s peace and unity.
“Twitter is the platform of choice for separatist campaigners, especially those of them residing outside the country, who use it to issue directives to their followers in Nigeria to attack our security forces as well as to burn police stations and INEC(Independent National Electoral Commission) offices. It was a tough decision to take, considering that many of our youths also use the platform for business. Such is the challenge posed by social media.
“At its(Twitter) request, the government has agreed to engage with Twitter and, hopefully, we can both chart a path forward, without compromising our national interest.
“While many have accused us of stifling the press with the ban, we say Twitter is just one of many social media platforms being used by Nigerians. WhatsApp, which is most used by Nigerians, is there. And there is Facebook, Instagram, Google hangout, etc.
“It is also not uncommon to hear, in certain circles, that not enough is being done to publicise government’s achievements. “Herein comes the issue of sustainability. To keep programmes running, you need a massive infusion of resources.
“Unfortunately, the funding of Federal Government’s information sector is far below par, due partly to the paucity of funds, and in part because of the little premium that we, as a nation, place on information and communication management. To put things in perspective, the budget of the Information ministry in some states is higher than that of the Federal Government
“Then, and this is avoidable, there is the painful lack of synergy among managers of information and communication in all strata of our government. The clear demarcation of responsibilities is breached at will, as we seem to be competing against ourselves. Information Managers rarely compare notes, thus duplicating efforts.”
Sanwo-Olu said his government had identified appropriate and adequate communication with the people.
He said: “The mantra of APC is premised on change, which speaks to security, infrastructure development, and economic growth.
“I think our states have been showcasing these through their initiatives though COVID-19 has slowed down our moves. We all know where we are when it comes to security, especially as states and a country, even the world at large.
“APC is doing what it should do, though it’s still a work in progress. The government also finds it hard to communicate effectively to its people, but we are ready to confront and combat the challenges.
“We cannot roll out our back-end initiatives to fight insecurity, but we have set up a media communication strategy where we pass out timely information. We don’t have to wait for a security meeting before we pass on strategic information.
“We are also not leaving it to the police alone; we are using a multi-level security architecture. We will strengthen our neighborhood watch in the next weeks to complement efforts of the police to combat crime.”
National Chairman of the APC and Yobe State Governor Mala Buni noted that there was an avalanche of misinformation and mischief against the ruling party.
He said: “As it is now, there is inadequate information on social media because information managers think it is an enemy when it is not. Therefore, government should invest in social media because it is a very important tool in propagating its activities. Information sharing between progressive states is necessary and strategic communication is important if the government must project itself well.”
Kebbi State Governor and Progressives Governors Forum (PGF) Chairman Abubakar Bagudu hailed Sanwo-Olu’s achievements in two years.
Bagudu, who joined the event virtually, said he was unable to attend the meeting physically because of security challenges in his state.
The meeting was also attended virtually by Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai.
Laolu Akande, media spokesman for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Director-General of the PGF Saliu Lukmon; commissioners of information in Ekiti, Osun, Kogi, Borno, Cross Rivers, and other APC-controlled states; and heads of government-owned media agencies were present at the meeting.