Dozens of federal agencies have been forced to migrate to Facebook as an alternative social media platform after Nigerian government banned Twitter a month ago.
Before the ban, Twitter was one of the most popular platforms used by the Presidency, National Assembly and other ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) for timely information dissemination.
Many of these federal agencies did not have functional websites while those that do, rarely update them despite allocating billions for the purpose annually.
On June 4, the federal government indefinitely suspended microblogging site, Twitter, for undermining Nigeria’s sovereignty, among others.
Twitter had over 40 million users in Nigeria at the time of the ban.
NetBlocks, a watchdog organisation that monitors cyber-security and governance of the Internet, said each hour of the Twitter ban costs Nigeria about $250,000 (N102.5 million), bringing the daily loss to N2.5 billion. It means the economy would have lost approximately N7.5 billion in just three days.
Following the ban, which generated a lot of controversy, the federal government requested the House of Representatives to enact a law to regulate social and online media in Nigeria.
Hours after the ban of the microblogging site, many Nigerians resorted to the use virtual private networks (VPN) which allow users to disguise their online identity and evade country-specific limits.
In March this year, 21st CENTURY CHRONICLE reported how the National Assembly website had disappeared from the cyberspace despite billions of money spent on it. The federal parliament relied on Twitter handles of the Senate and the House for dissemination of information about the country’s legislative arm of government.
Checks by this newspaper showed that apart from the official handles of the Nigerian government and the Presidency, President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, are among top administration officials who maintained active Twitter accounts with huge following.
As at June 4 when the ban was announced, the verified account of Presidency Nigeria, @NGRPresident, had 2.3 million followers, 15,800 tweets and last tweeted on June 4 on a meeting of the police council presided over by President Buhari. The verified account of the Government of Nigeria @NigeriaGov had 1.4 million followers, 55,500 tweets and last tweeted about the launch of the Deep Blue Project in Lagos by Buhari; the verified account of the president, @MBuhari had 4 million followers, 1,180 tweets and last tweet was on June 1 about his administration’s strides in security, citing instances of changes in service chiefs and IGP.
Also, the verified account of the vice president, @ProfOsinbajo had 3.4 million followers, 3,076 tweets and the last tweet was a retweet from his media adviser’s handle @akandeoj on June 2. Both the president and vice president maintain active Facebook pages.
In the National Assembly, while the verified handle of the Senate, @NGRSenate had 1.3 million followers, 41,800 tweets and last posted on June 2, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan’s account, @DrAhmadLawan has 232,000 followers, 2014 tweets and last posted on June 3, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila’s personal handle, @femigbaja has 737,000 followers, 2,376 tweets and last retweeted a post from @NicholasJSimard on June 4, while his official handle, @SpeakerGbaja has 74,300 followers, 3,617 tweets and last post was on June 4; and the National Assembly handle, @nassnigeria has 914,900 followers, 34,700 tweets and last posted on June 4 and House of Representatives handle, @HouseNGR has 634,200 followers, 12,000 tweets and last posted on June 4.
The Facebook page of the National Assembly was last updated on May 29, 2019 but that of the Senate and House of Representatives are active.
The new media comprises of Twitter and other social media but the government’s advisers on new media are most active on Twitter with thousands of followers.
Special assistant to the president on digital and new media, Tolu Ogunlesi has 698,200 followers, 174,000 tweets and his last post, was a retweet from @UNDPNigeria on June 4, on his account @toluogunlesi; personal assistant on new media to the president, Bashir Ahmad has 918,100 followers, 45,400 tweets and last posted on June 4; while another aide on new media, Lauretta Onochie @Laurestar has 183,300 followers, 38,200 tweets and last tweeted on June 4.
Sharing of information on COVID-19 has also suffered a blow since the ban. The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) which used to share updates about pandemic on its handle @NCDC with 1.1 million followers and 13,400 tweets last posted on June 5, a report of states with zero reported covid19 cases, making it one of the few agencies to post on the microblogging site after the ban was announced.
Similarly, the Federal Ministry of Health @Fmohnigeria with 342,300 followers and 5,509 tweets last posted a COVID-19 sensitisation message on June 4 while the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) with 67,100 followers and 9,961 tweets last posted on covid19 vaccination update on June 4.
Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, whose ministry is at the centre of it all, also maintained a very active Twitter profile on his handle @DrIsaPantami, with 404,200 followers, 20,100 tweets and last made a post announcing his participation in the 42 virtual FEC meeting on June 4.
Even though Twitter is only one of the social media sites used in the country, findings showed that it is the most preferred as Facebook and Instagram pages of the respective MDAs were largely inactive. A few of them have migrated to Facebook since the ban and have been updating regularly.
The website of the State House, www.statehouse.gov.ng, for instance, was last updated on May 7, 2021, but the AsoRock Villa verified Facebook account is active.
The website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was updated last on April 26, in the events and news category. The ministry however maintains an active Facebook account.
The website of the Ministry of Science and Technology was last updated on March 14, 2021 and maintains an active Facebook page last updated a few days ago.
The Ministry of Environment’s Facebook page was last updated on April 7, 2021 while its website was updated on March 17, 2021.
The Federal Ministry of Water Resources however has an active website and Facebook account just like the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ministry of Youth and Sports Development.