Social media platform, Facebook, has been warned to be wary of manipulation by the Nigerian government.
Some Civil Society Organisations faulted the call by the Federal Government for social media platforms to stop supporters of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) from posting inciting messages.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had at a meeting with a team from Facebook on Tuesday, cautioned social media companies against yielding their platforms to members of IPOB to incite violence and instigate ethnic hatred in Nigeria.
In a statement signed by his media aide, Mr Segun Adeyemi, the minister was quoted as saying that since IPOB had been proscribed and classified as a terrorist organisation, Facebook had no justification to continue to allow its platform to be used by the organisation to further its campaign of hate and destabilisation of the country.
He said the government would be monitoring Facebook and other platforms closely in the days ahead to ensure compliance.
The PUNCH reports that the Federal Government had on June 5, 2021 proscribed the activities of Twitter for seven months for the persistent use of the platform for activities capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.
Speaking in separate interviews with our correspondent on Wednesday, the National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, Emmanuel Onwubiko; the Executive Director, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre, Okechukwu Nwanguma; and the Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, Dare Ariyo-Atoye, said the FG was trying to manipulate social media platforms.
Onwubiko said, “I think Facebook will be risking its reputation and credibility if it listens to Lai Mohammed. In as much as it is important that social media platforms are not used as dumping grounds for hate speech since this, to a large extent leads to crime, they go with their own way of doing things.
“I think a lot of fingers are pointing to IPOB. The government has not managed the situation well. If they are talking of IPOB, the government is the one that instigated the crisis that happened in the South-East and is not even managing it well.
“If they want to solve the problem happening in the South-East, they shouldn’t go to Facebook. Facebook or other social media platforms are not the problem. The problem is domiciled in Aso Rock.”
On his part, Atoye said the Federal Government was only trying to blame social media platforms for its failure.
He asked the FG to deploy the same means it used to apprehend Nnamdi Kanu to get anyone peddling hate speech.
Atoye said, “The Federal Government is trying to gaslight social media platforms to take the blame for their own failure as a government. Facebook is a social media platform and it already has an internal mechanism for fact-checking. What the FG, through Lai, is trying to do is to shift the blame on social media to what it ought and has failed to do.
“The FG, who possesses the resources to apprehend Nnamdi Kanu in far away Kenya, cannot under any guise tell Nigerians that it lacks the resources, power and capacity to bring to justice people who are using social media platforms to undermine the peace of the country or to create ethno-religious crime.”
Nwanguma accused the regime of distracting Nigerians from its incompetence.
He said, “Lai Mohammed and the government he serves like distractions. They like to say or do things with the aim of distracting the attention of Nigerians from their incompetence.
“This government is just fixated with blaming social media for its serial failures. The last time, the government took the scandalous and counter-productive step of banning Twitter.
“A female Christian student in a tertiary educational institution in Sokoto State was stoned and burnt to death by her fellow students in a despicable show of religious extremism and all that this government could do was to blame social media. Whereas what was expected of a responsible government was to decisively address the issue with a view to ensuring justice and making a loud and clear statement that such barbarism in an era of civilisation is unacceptable and can’t go unpunished in accordance with the law.”