The Nigerian government has for long been eyeing social media regulation for years.
The Nigerian agency responsible for the sale of moribund government properties, Bureau of Public Enterprise, said it plans to stray off its sales duties into drawing up possible regulations for the use of social media in Nigeria.
The Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Benjamin Ezra Dikki, revealed the plans on Wednesday in Kuchikau, Nasarawa State where he spoke to a cross-section of the bureau’s non-management staff attending a training.
“As it now obtains, all manner of things are uploaded on the various platforms of the Social Media without recourse to age and sensibilities of the users,” Mr Dikki said. “This is not good enough.”
Mr. Dikki expressed dissatisfaction with the current practice where the government does not place heavy restrictions on the use of social media in Nigeria, claiming the bureau would apply its authority to regulate materials uploaded on the various Social Media platforms.
“…In line with its reform mandate, the Bureau plans to initiate necessary policies and the legal framework for the regulation of the Social Media in the country,” Chigbo Anichebe, head of the Bureau’s public communication, said in a statement.
Mr. Dikki claimed regulating social media is a justification for indefinitely extending the lifespan of the of the bureau, after the sales of government properties.
He told his staff to get creative and brace up for the task ahead as the Bureau had post-privatisation mandate to carry out reforms in various sectors of the Nigerian economy.
The Nigerian online community, with its over 48 million internet users and rapidly growing social media users, has metamorphosed into the country’s most formidable political opposition to the government.
Currently, Nigeria has at least 6.6 million Facebook users, an aggressive Twitter community and large number of users on other social media networks.
Internet penetration, alongside social media usage in Nigeria is surging and driving political, social and cultural shift, especially among the young and middle aged. Through the social media, Nigerians, are gaining more relevance in the country’s democracy.
Internet users perceive the social media as a valuable tool for networking, knowledge, and entertainment. Most importantly, the Nigerian social media offers liberation from traditional social, cultural and political restrictions inadvertently set up by both the government and the people.
The social-political strength and influence of Nigeria’s social media community (Twitter and Facebook, most especially) in Nigeria is growing rapidly. On a couple of occasions, the parliament has taken up issues promoted by the social media community as motions.
The Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, for instance, has a fan page on Facebook where he communicates most of his plans with the social media community. He also has an elaborate social media public relation team – on the payroll of the government – sharing the government’s achievements and defending its weaknesses.
But government’s edge on social media appears to be thinning by the day as more Nigerians pour into social media platforms made more accessible by affordable smartphones.
The Nigerian government has for long contemplated social media regulations for some years, although it has always been met with stiff opposition from the masses.
Mr. Dikki is not the first government official that has planned social media regulations. In August 2012, the senate president, David Mark, called for similar regulations, but backed down after a serious social backlash greeted his calls.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, also made similar plans – to control how political parties use the social media – after the 2011 general elections but failed.
The government recently awarded contracts to stealthily monitor internet users in Nigeria. With the elections two years away, implementing restrictions on social media use in Nigeria may once again be strongly rejected by the masses.