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Boosting Nigeria’s Economy Through Salt

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Stakeholders in solid mineral sector have called for the full exploitation of the huge salt deposits in some states across the country for local consumption and export. A recent survey indicated that some states had large deposits of salt but virtually all the states had not really utilised the mineral resource to develop their economies.
The stakeholders particularly expressed dismay that Nigeria still imported salt for its local consumption, and over to 23 billion dollars or N3.6 trillion had been reportedly spent on salt importation in the last 10 years.
Some of the states with large salt deposits include Benue, Cross River, Ebonyi,Abia, Taraba and Nassarawa states.
Director, Department of Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (ASM), Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Patrick Ojeka, said that the creation and implementation of an enabling policy would facilitate the transformation of Nigeria into a salt producing country.
He said that the country was blessed with abundant liquid salt deposits in many states which could be harnessed and refined for sales in the local and international market.
“As an individual, I am not aware of any salt producing industry in our country although, it may exist,” he said, adding that there were tracks of salt that flowed from some states to other states across the country.
“There is a track of salt water in Benue and in Obi Local Government, Nasarawa, but only the locals fetch the liquid and evaporate it into salt, the same track passes through Ogoja in Cross River.
“Some states such as Nasarawa, Ebonyi, Benue, Cross River states are sitting on inland salt boom but only the local women are fetching theliquid and evaporating it into salt.
“If there is a policy and adequate implementation put in place, industries will harness the liquid and refine it into salt, instead of importing the product, which we have in abundance,” Ojeka said.
The survey particularly examined some states with salt deposits such as Abia and Ebonyi, Nassarawa and Taraba to assess their level of utilisation of the saltdeposits to generate revenue and boost their economy.
In Ebonyi, salt deposits can be found in commercial quantities in Uburu, Okposi, Enyigba, waiting to be tapped for the economic development of the state.
However, stakeholders expressed disappointment over the inability of successive governments to harness the huge salt deposits in the state.
Former Chairman of Salt Processors Union in Uburu, Ohaozara Local Government Area, Chief Silas Onyibe, said that government had continued to pay lip-service to the exploitation of salt deposits in the state.
“Successive governments in the state have failed to harness the vast salt deposits,” he said.
Onyibe said that currently, no fewer than 3,000 people were engaged in subsistence salt production, adding that they contributed over N100 million yearly to the government coffers.
“Ebonyi’s slogan, ‘Salt of the Nation’, is given due to its large salt deposits and its salt production capacity.
“It is regrettable that the salt processors, mostly women, who are 40 years and above still use crude and traditional methods of processing salt,” he said.
Mr Nwankwo Ewah, a salt processor at Enyigba, moaned that potential investors in commercial salt production were frustrated by “obnoxious government policies”.
“The investors, including foreigners, have educated us on modern methods of salt production but could not install the modern equipment, worth millions of dollars, due to the government’s policies,” he said.
According to him, the only salt factory in the area, which produced several tonnes of salt daily with at least 500 workers “is finding it difficult to thrive”, noting that the unfriendly atmosphere in the state had encouraged illegal salt processing in the area.
An official of the Ebonyi Ministry of Solid Minerals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that government was zealous to boost its revenue base through salt production.
She said that the state government would soon unveil its blueprint in that regard, adding that local salt producers were constantly encouraged with grants and equipment to boost their production capacity.
According to her, the establishment of modern salt processing facilities in the state was being considered by the government and called for patience on the part of the people.
In Aba, Abia, the Commissioner for Solid Minerals Development, Chief Allwell Asiforo, said that the ministry had concluded plans to partner with Aba Chamber of Commerce and Industry “in identifying and exploring mineral deposits in the state, including salt.
“We are opening our doors to both foreign and local investors to come and help us exploit the huge mineral deposits in Abia,” Asiforo said.
In Nasarawa, the state government expressed its readiness to collaborate with private investors in harnessing the large salt deposits in the state.
The Commissioner for Environment and Solid Minerals, Mr Gabriel Aka’ka, said that Keana and Awe local government areas of the state have large salt deposits.
Aka’ka said that women in the neighbourhoods had been using crude methods to refine the salt, selling the product and earning a living from the business over the years.
He explained that efforts had been made in the past by the state government, in collaboration with the Raw Materials Research and Development Council and the Federal Polytechnic, Nasarawa, toward industrialising the processing of the commodity.
He said during the former Gov. Abdullahi Adamu’s administration, the collaborative efforts led to the fabrication of a salt processing machine by the Federal Polytechnic Nasarawa.
“It includes efforts to have an internal technology built by Nigerians to see how to harness the mining of the salt.
“Unfortunately, the machines could not meet the target and the project was eventually abandoned and the machines were left to rot,” he said.
Aka’ka admitted that not much had been done about salt in the state since that initial government effort to exploit the mineral.
“We believe that public private partnership will go a long way toward the effective and sustainable exploitation of the mineral for the benefit of the state and the people, “ Aka’ka added.
Malam Abubakar Yunusa, a resident of Keana, stated that the salt deposit in the areas was part of their heritage, as the local mining technology had been passed down from generation to generation, spanning over a century.
According to Yunusa, the town derived its name from the man who discovered the salt lake, ‘Ogye Keana’ and decided to settle in the location.
He said that women from each household in Keana were apportioned locations around the lake by a local chief, who was saddled with the administration of the salt lake.
Yunusa noted that during the administration of a former governor, the late Aliyu Akwe Doma, the Dangote Group of Companies was in Keana to start up a salt refining plant “but nobody knows what became of the project”.
He appealed to the government to consider harnessing the salt potential in the areas, adding that apart from being a revenue earner, the salt village could also be developed as a tourist site.
In Taraba, the Chief of Akwana in Wukari Local Government Area ofTaraba, Mr Paul Agbo, urged the state and federal governments to invest in exploiting the huge salt deposits in the area.
Agbo said that the salt in his domain was rich in iodine, adding that investment in exploitation of the salt deposits would modernise the current local extraction processes used in Akwana to boost productivity.
He said that the Akwana District, which covers 41km, could meet most of the country’s salt demand if its potential was properly harnessed.
“With the large quantity of salt in my domain, we have the capacity to produce most of the salt needed in the country if there is the needed investment.
“Therefore, we are calling on the state and Federal Governments to invest in transforming the current local method of producing salt to a modernised one, so that our income level can be increased,” he said.
On his part, a stakeholder in salt management, Mr Simon Sengha, said that salt production, which was the major economic activity of his people since ancient times, was only for local consumption at the moment.
“Salt production in Akwana dates back to the period of Trans–Saharan trade in which merchants from far North usually came to buy salt here and export it to places as far as the present-day Libya.
“The quantity of salt in Akwana is beyond the horizon of ordinary human estimation because, apart from rain, all other sources of water within the vicinity of Akwana town taste salty.
“Advanced technology has yet to be introduced in the process of extraction, filtration, evaporation, crystallization and distillation of the salt.
“The production of salt in Akwana is inadequate to bring about the economy of cost because it takes a great deal of physical labour to record a minimal result,” Sengha said.
Experts say that apart from inadequate modern technology, disruption of mine fields by grazing activities is also a factor constraining salt production in the country.
He, however, said that investment in the salt production could be achieved through the provision of infrastructure and tackling the fragile security situation in the area.
“Government should beef up security in Akwana to mitigate the deteriorating security situation in order to ensure enabling atmosphere of economic growth and development.
“With improved security situation, the resources tapped here will spur economic growth via the creation of wealth and jobs in the midst of scarce resources,” Sengha added.
Yussuf writes for News Agency of Nigeria.

 

Grace Yussuf

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Sim Fubara: The Beauty Of Continuity!

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Since the return of democratic governance in 1999 in Nigeria, Rivers State has, as it were, recently had a turbulence in the transition of power from one administration to another. This bane has had its concomitant effect not only in the continuity of policies, but in the trajectory of development of the state. The overall effect had often left the people of the state bewildered.And some will say, befuddled in understanding the direction the state was headed in terms of development.
Recall the exit of Dr. Peter Odili’s administration in 2007 and the coming on board of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, there was a departure from some of the critical policies of the past administration in the areas of power, empowerment and social welfare. Perhaps, based on the circumstances of the ascension to power of the latter, some critical infrastructure were abandoned, leading to waste of public funds already sunk into such projects.
The trend continued in 2015 when the administration of Rotimi Amaechi came to an end. It was the most bizarre of circumstances to the extent that a proper change of baton and formal handover to the new administration of Chief Nyesom Wike was jettisoned on the alter of ego and a shameful display of political naivety.
It was obvious that with the political animosity between the then out-going and incoming administration, something was to give in. And so, it was, that the administration of Chief Nyesom Wikej ettisoned the policy thrust of the previous administration, especially in the areas of transportation, agriculture, health and education, and replaced them with his NEW Vision philosophy and policy thrust. It was thus not surprising that some of the infrastructure such as monorail project, Songhaifarm and a few others became moribund, as they were not priority projects of the NEW administration. Again, the bottom line remains that public funds expended on such projects, and for lack of continuity, have been flushed down the drain.
Poised not to go that lane as election draws near to vote in a new leader and administration in the state, the people of Rivers State seem to have concluded to vote for continuity through the election of Amaopusenibo Siminialayi Fubara, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the next governor of the state. This postulation is based on the enthusiasm across all sections of the people of the state in the candidacy of Fubara.
There is no doubt that the out-going administration of Nyesom Wike has left remarkable imprints in terms of delivery of landmark infrastructure projects in the state. While a lot has been done, especially on roads, bridges, health, education and urban renewal, more ongoing projects are springing up. Even at the twilight of the administration, new road contracts are being awarded, schools are undergoing renovation, works are ongoing in the tertiaryinstitutions, and employment of thousands of Rivers youths are also on-going in all the tertiary institutions in the state, among so many other projects.
Going by antecedents as witnessed in the state, Rivers people are determined to ensure that these good deeds are not abandoned, reversed or terminated, if another political party comes into power in the state. Existing literature on governance shows clearly that politicians in the statehave a tendency of displaying vengeance and abandoning projects initiated by their predecessors. They would rather startnew ones.
This kind of situation should not be allowed to repeat itself in Rivers State. The overwhelming support for the pair of Sir Siminialayi Fubara and Prof. Ngozi Ordu as displayed by youths, women, traders, artisans, businessmen and women, and indeed, all residents of the state is a tactical endorsement of continuity in governance, signifying supportfor the good works done by the administration of Nyesom Wike in Rivers State.
Thus, when Rivers residents elect Fubara at the March 11, 2023polls, as their next governor from May 29, 2023, they would be sending home a clear message that they desire an unbroken and consistent existence or operation of something overtime. Rivers people would speak in one voice that they want consolidation of existing policies, something continuing for a long period of time without being changed or stopped, mainly because of the positive impact they have experienced.
According to Tayo Agunbiade, “history has shown that in Nigeria, when a new government from a different political party replaces an incumbent, on-going projects, programmes and policies are ridiculed and terminated. It is common to see public policies, regardless of their merits and positive impacts on society, needlessly reversed. Some argue that this approach is because the new comers also want to have their ideas implemented, regardless of credentials past policies may have continuity for as long as the Constitution permits – has its advantage once the policies are working to improve the lives of the citizens”.
In a seminar vein, TemiladeAruya argues that, “one of the hallmarks of good governance is continuity in policies, programmes and projects; especially those that are progressive and developmental”. He goes on to state, and I agree with him that, “political ideologies that are favourable to the growth and development of the people and the society, are built and established on the structures of continuity as one government takes over and continues where the previous stopped”.
One thing that is undisputable is that continuity in governance ensures effective resource management. This, of course, is a key to good governance, which includes effectiveness and efficiency in public sector management, accountability and transparency. This is where Siminialayi Fubura is best at. A former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, and Accountant-General of Rivers State, he is a seasoned accountant who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Administration, Master of Business Administration degree in Finance as well as Master of Science in Finance from the University of Port Harcourt.
Fubara is a man, especially famed for his consummate knowledge of the science of accounting and administration, as exemplified by his commitment and dedication to duty.He played a pivotal role in the success story of the administration of Chief NyesomWike, which was rated as the best sub-national in the overall 2021 Fiscal Performance Ranking, as published by BudgiT, a civic organisation that applies technology to intersect citizen engagement with institutional improvement to facilitate societal change.
With Fubara’s mien and clear understanding of the inner workings of government, having been an active participant in governance, Rivers State would certainly reap the benefits of continuity in governance, as he would encourage and facilitate more developments, growth and productivity. He will promote the execution and completion of capital projects that ordinarily a new party (a new administration) in power would abandon, to take up new ones. Of course, as we are aware, this has continued to be a source of wastage of public funds.
Fubara, a man who has impacted many lives with his empathy and motivation would ensure, when elected, that continuity in governance is not just about, “a political party being in power over a long period. Rather, it is about the ability of a government to have unity of purpose, focus and clear-cut direction. It is about subsequent governments operating within and upon the same ideology and political principle which are ultimately beneficial to the people”. Continuity in government will be reflected in Fubara’s administration, when he emerges victorious in the March 11, 2023 polls in Rivers State, as tremendous growth and development which would make the state a leading economic and industrial hub in Nigeria, would be attained.
Indeed, Fubura’s statement last Monday, at Omoku at the flag off of local government areas campaign of the PDP at Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA, that he would ensure good governance which entails providing quality services and making life easier for the people, which Governor Nyesom Wike has done for the LGA, is a clear indication of his determination to pitch at continuity.
“What we stand for is good governance. Good governance is providing for the people. Good governance is making life easy for the people. That is what my principal (Governor Wike) has done for you and that is where I stand”, Fubara declared at the campaign rally, as he re-emphasised his stand on continuity.
With continuity in governance through the election of Siminialayi Fubara on March 11, 2023, Rivers people are assured of enhanced development in all ramificationssuch as social, economic, cultural and physical development. The citizens will be assured that the Dr. Peter Odili Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease Diagnostic and Treatment Centre in Port Harcourt aimed at enhancing medical tourism, is not abandoned; the move to enhance adequate medical personnel in Rivers State through scholarship to Rivers sons and daughters is maintained; employment of Rivers youths is maintained; among so many others.
In all, it is obvious that there is need to create stability and continuity in governance in Rivers in order to build on the benefits and achievements already attained. This stability and continuity in governance is important to Rivers State to ensure that the people and residents continue to live in peace and prosperity. Continuity in governance is good when there are visible signs of societal growth and development as championed by the out-going administration in the state, and it would only make common sense if SiminialayiFubara is elected in March 11, 2023 to continue to consolidate and build on the firm foundation already laid.

By: Celestine Ogolo
Ogolo is a member of the Rivers State Equity Group.

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Hostilities And Seamless Democratic Transition (1)

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Nigeria is in the thresh old of another General Elections that will produce set of leaders for the State Houses of Assembly, Governors for the 36 States of the federation, 109 Senators for the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly and 360 Representatives for the Lower Chambers, in her 24th year of uninterrupted democratic governance. Nigeria’s civil rule has been replete with military interventions. In fact, of the 62 years of the country’s independence from British tutelage and domination, the Military whose statutory obligation is to protect the territorial integrity of the country from external aggression, has made several incursions in the political space of Nigeria.
However, some analysts of social and political events have blamed the intervention of the military in politics on the flagrant misrule and abuse of office by those who were elected or purportedly elected to be servant leaders and hold the resources of the people in trust. Every Government derives its legitimacy from the people and ought to be accountable to thr people. Though the military who have tagged their interventions as “corrective”, are not better either. The non-interference of the military in politics in the last 24 years, shows their maturity and resolve to adhere to professionalism and statutory duties because there are several excesses of some political leaders and their followers that are not only an affront on the sensibility of the people but are capable of truncating democracy through civil disobedience and military interventions.
Be that as it may, Nigeria needs a pat on the back for achieving 24 years of unbroken democracy without commitment to learn from the ugly past. The burning of offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), destruction of Permanent Voter Cards, killing of INEC staff and security agents in 15 States of Nigeria are strong evidences of  a deaf and blind political process tottering on the brink of failure. Already, the INEC is threatening to postpone the General Elections slated for this year because of the incessant attacks on her personnel and facilities. According to a national media outlet, Tribune Online, on November 10, 2022, suspected hoodlums razed the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abeokuta South Local Government Area of Ogun State, destroying critical election materials. The initial impression was that there had been a fire outbreak, but it soon emerged that it was outlaws that had in fact set fire to the facility in the early hours of the day. According to the INEC commissioner for information and voter education, Festus Okoye, over 65,000 uncollected PVCs were destroyed in the fire. Okoye said that the attackers overpowered the security personnel on duty and set the entire building ablaze.”The main building and all the commission’s movable assets in the office were destroyed. They include 904 ballot boxes, 29 voting cubicles, 30 megaphones, 57 election bags, eight electric power generators and 65,699 uncollected permanent voters cards (PVCs).” This is unacceptable in a nation whose democracy is precarious and fledgling.
Ogun State in the South-West geopolitical region of Nigeria also recorded incidents of hostilities on INEC facility and materials.Speaking to Journalists on the dastardly act, Okoye said that one of the commission’s offices in Ede South Local Government Area of Osun State was attacked and set ablaze, although the damage was limited to a section of the building and only some furniture items were destroyed.  According to reports, miscreants have attacked INEC offices and staff over 42 times in the last three years. “To be sure, the attacks on INEC offices are a cause for concern. Apart from creating unnecessary tension in the polity, such attacks give the impression that certain persons, probably political actors, are interested in undermining the electoral process and thus undermining the process of recruiting the new set of leaders that will pilot the affairs of the country.  It is disheartening that in a country that espouses law and order, the lives of INEC staff have been, and continue to be, exposed to danger, thus impeding their mental readiness for the onerous task with which they have been saddled. Arsonists targeting offices, especially in the run up to the 2023 general elections, apparently do not mean well for the country. It is not difficult to suggest that the attacks are deliberate and perhaps designed to send messages which ought to be deconstructed by the security agencies as part of the investigation into them”, says a concerned analyst. It cannot be a thing of joy that in just 33 months, more than 40 INEC offices have been attacked and vandalised with the commission reporting loss of critical property. Such property will evidently cost a fortune to replace and unfortunately, the burden is transferred to the same long-suffering Nigerians rendered economically impotent by political actors.
The development should be curbed; it would not thrive if there were consequences for the perpetrators. Clearly, the government and security agencies have to increase and improve security around the commission’s offices and make them less pregnable and susceptible to vicious attacks by arsonists and vandals. In this regard, installing CCTV cameras in the offices would not be out of place. It is important for the attacks to be unravelled, not just to punish the criminals behind them according to the laws of the land, but to expose them as a deterrent to would-be criminals planning such attacks.The government and the security agencies must up their ante and ensure that INEC is saved from the disruption that further attacks will create. This is in the interest of the country and its desire to have a well organised and hitch-free general election. Another two states in the South South region where INEC suffered losses was Ogun and Osun. Reacting to the unprovoked attacks on INEC facilities and personnel, the Obi-Datti Media Organisation described the recent attacks on the offices in Ogun and Osun states respectively as sabotage by losers.   The group also condemned the destruction of 65,699 uncollected Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) “losers” who attacked two of the offices. In a statement the group said the act was a pure sabotage against the Nigerian nation, her people and her future. The group urged the Federal Government to back its promise to conduct free and credible election in 2023 by protecting INEC staff, facilities and materials from destruction.  In a release captioned: Burning INEC Offices A Great Threat To 2023 General Elections
, The Obi-Datti Media Organisation said it received the very disturbing news of the burning down of the Ogun State Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office with utter shock. Similar incident had occurred in Osun State earlier.It has been confirmed that many materials needed for the next (this) year’s elections were destroyed by the inferno especially permanent voters’ cards yet to be collected by their owners. We condemn this arson in the strongest term possible because of the serious danger and threat it poses to the conduct of free, fair and credible elections next year. On December 12 last year there was outrage and bitter protest over the attack on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, office in Imo State, which left no fewer than five persons dead, including two policemen, the third attack in 12 days on the commission offices in the state. INEC; Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State; Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; Labour Party, LP; and Accord were among those who condemned the attack, which was the 53rd across 29 states that the electoral commission had suffered since 2019. According to reports, “the attack was likened to warfare with booming explosive devices and a massive exchange of gunfire between the hoodlums and security agencies, came on a day the INEC started the distribution of Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs, to people, who registered, recently. “The INEC raised the alarm over what it described as systematic and targeted attacks on its facilities nationwide, ahead of the 2023 general elections. “A policeman was killed in the attack, while another suffered a severe injury in the gun duel during the gunmen’s attack at the Imo State Headquarters of the INEC, Port Harcourt Road, Owerri. “This brings to three, the number of INEC offices in the state, attacked by the hoodlums since December I, 2022. The incident followed the earlier attacks on INEC’s Orlu LGA office on December 1, 2022, and the Oru West LGA office on December 4, 2022.
“Part of the INEC office was razed by the hoodlums, who used IEDs to completely burn the Election and Party Monitoring, EPM, building”. Addressing newsmen at the State Police Command’s Headquarters, Owerri, where the lifeless bodies of the hoodlums were displayed, the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Mr. Michael Abattam, said: “The gunmen killed one policeman and injured another one in the gun duel that lasted for about an hour. “Five riffles, two vehicles, charms, locally made bombs, phones and money were recovered from the slain gunmen.” Governor Uzodimma, of Imo State who visited the scene blamed desperate politicians for the attack, saying that security would be adequately provided for the INEC for the distribution of the PVCs in the state. Uzodimma said: “You can see why INEC is the target.
To be completed in the next edition.

By: Igbiki Benibo

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Guarding The Youth Against Social Media Abuse 

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Can the social media space be regulated in a manner that it will give young people the opportunity to unleash positive energy on the society without stifling their voices? Experts say it is possible. Youths constitute the bulk of those who use the social media space for interactions, empowerment and self-actualization. They have leveraged advancements in information and communication technology as a medium of communication.

Among the leading social media in Nigeria are Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. While youths may have limited political power to champion their views they can harness the potential in the social media to promote peace in Nigeria. Although the social media has its own negative sides, it also comes with numerous advantages, such as facilitating access to mentorship, socialization and creativity.

Through its networking mechanisms, social media spreads news faster  and has wider reach than the conventional media. It encourages group participation in discussions and activities thereby providing a platform to push critical information and nurture ideas. Youths can take advantage of this uniqueness to propagate positive atmospheres such as peace and nation building.

While many young people have used social media to create wealth, education and sourcing information and entertainment, many have used it to propagate violence conducts and other social vices. Experts say the Federal Government has a role to play in re-channeling youths’ social media culture and orientation from the negative to the positive through proper regulation. The federal government is cognisant of this as demonstrated by the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

In June 2021 while appearing before a public hearing organised by the House of Representatives, Mohammed asked the lawmakers to amend the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) act to empower the agency to regulate social and online media. The minister said: “Internet broadcasting and all online media should be included in this because we have a responsibility to monitor contents, including Twitter.” Similarly, in June the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) also announced a draft document for the Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries and Conditions for Operating in Nigeria.

The code seeks to, among many others, compel online platforms to provide any backend information to assist government agencies for the purpose of investigating and prosecuting users who breach the provisions of the code.
Reinforcing these thoughts, Dr Bakut Bakut, Director-General, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, IPCR, said: “Preventing the conflict of tomorrow means changing the mindset of the youth today.” Bakut, who said this while delivering an address of welcome at a conference in Abuja recently, said the youth could be redirected to use the social media as a tool for peace building. According to him, youths use social media more frequently and are more likely to become victims of violence and can also be recruited by extremists.

The two-day conference, which was organised by IPCR in collaboration with the University of Ilorin Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies, CPSS, had as its theme, “Youth, Social Media and Community Peace building.” “This is a significant issue because technology can either be a medium through which terrorists recruit young people or a means through which young men and women can help in building peace. “Although young people are crucial players in peace building, they have been excluded from the process and are instead thought of as `manipulable` tools for violent conflicts and social unrest,” he said.

Bakut recalled the #EndSARS protest of October, 2020, which was organised by Nigerian Twitter users largely made up of youths against police brutality. He said it demonstrated that social media was dangerously spiraling out of control and a breeding ground for fake news, hate speech, misinformation and online incitement of unrest, hence the need to regulate it. He said the conference offered opportunities for fresh ideas to gain the youth’s support for community peace building initiatives and incorporating social media, especially given the current insecurity concerns in Nigeria. Prof. Sulyman Abdulkareem, the immediate past Vice-Chancellor, University of Ilorin, while corroborating Bakut’s view said regulating social media would curb online abuses and engage youths to promote peace.

Speaking on the topic, “Social Media Use and its implications on Community Peace building Among Nigerian Youths,” he said that social media regulation was the best way to ensure that youths used social media positively. Represented by Prof. A.L. Azeez, Dean, Faculty of Mass Communication, University of Ilorin, Sulyman said the social media must be regulated if the youth’s recklessness in using social media space would be drastically curtailed. “How can we make the youth to use the media positively; to empower themselves while at the same time deploying it for peace building? The best way is by controlling and regulating the social media space. “The regulation and control of social media space on grounds of humanity, peace and security are ostensibly plausible as such justifications have been invoked in Pakistan, Malaysia and India. “This is why many scholars of communication and peace have intensified their support and agitation for a legal framework for regulating Nigeria’s social media space through the social media bill,” he said.

The former vice-chancellor said that social media platforms should be used to facilitate virtual dialogues among stakeholders towards achieving peace and security. “The youth’s use and adoption of social media should be aimed at promoting peaceful coexistence among various ethnic groups. “Through social media, the Nigerian youth should build strong consensus on issues that affect their lives and wellbeing. “No meaningful socioeconomic and human development can take place in a nation where its youth are preoccupied with sharing divisive and inciting rhetoric on social media,” the don said. Prof. Eghosa Osaghae, the Director-General, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), underscored the need to directly engage the youth on peace building. “One of the ways that we can push these kinds of conversations concretely, going forward, would be to invite the youth to be part of this kind of debate,” he said.

According to him, the Nigerian policy paper defines the youth as someone who is between the age of 15-30, which means he or she is under custody and not yet autonomous. “I will however extend that definition to mean that the youth is a social category, so a youth is he or she that a particular person says he or she is, notwithstanding age. “So if you have a consciousness of being young or old, that’s who you are. There are people who are 40 but they already feel they are old, so let it be with them that they are old”, he said.

Prof. Oyeronke Olademo, Director, Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies. University of Ilorin, urged adults to use social media platforms to counter the negative narratives about youths and the country. “For me, curbing the excesses of the youth on social media and redirecting them to peace building, requires that older persons should flood the cyber space with positive narratives. “This will overwhelm any negative narratives or fake news, which the youth may spread on these platforms,” she said.

Experts say while it is important to regulate the social media space caution should be applied in doing so to avoid gagging the media, infringing on free speech and fundamental human rights.

By: Raphael Pepple

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