Following the suspension of Twitter by the Nigerian government, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) have resorted to other social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, as well as their official websites, to communicate with Nigerians.
Also, an Indian microblogging mobile application, Koo, is currently being relied upon to share government policies, decisions and programmes with the public.
The Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel, Federal Ministry of Transport and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) are among other government establishments that have mostly depended on their websites.
Co-founded by an Indian, Aprameya Radhakrishna, Koo was developed in March 2020. It shares similar features with Twitter, especially the @ sign, hashtag and its compose page.
In June, the Nigerian government set the pace by officially registering an account with Koo – @nigeriagov.
“Follow for information from the Federal Government of Nigeria,” the account’s brief description reads.
Within few weeks, the social media account has gained over 54,000 followers.
It follows only three accounts as of the time of this report. They are the Personal Assistant to the President on Digital and New Media Bashir Ahmad, Communications Assistant to the President Tolu Ogunlesi and President Muhammadu Buhari.
Also in June, Buhari @muhammadubuhari registered an account on the Indian application. Now verified, findings show he has over 32, 000 persons following the account while he follows just one – @nigeriagov.
The president has since added the medium among other channels of communicating with Nigerians.
His latest post on the platform was his decision to approve three-bedroom houses to members of the national football team, the Super Eagles, that won the Tunisia 1994 African Cup of Nations.
“These heroes did our nation proud, and the least we can do is honour the federal government’s promise to them. They will be allocated the houses in the states of preference,” Buhari stated in the post.
However, with about 31, 000 followers, his tweets no longer receive engagements unlike usual interactions while on Twitter with over four million followers.
His last post on Twitter was on June 1. The post, for instance, prior to Twitter’s suspension had over 7, 000 likes and more than 3, 000 retweets. This is not the case on Koo. Meanwhile, he only follows Nigeria’s official account on the new social media platform.
Special Assistant to the President on New Media, Bashir Ahmad, a presidential spokesman Garba Shehu and Tolu Ogunlesi are also active on the platform and have been disseminating public information.
Other agencies of government had done same.
Agencies registered with Koo
The ICIR tracked some of the MDAs on Koo to include the Federal Ministry of Interior @minofinteriorng, Federal Ministry of Science and Technology @fmstnigeria, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) @officialefcc, and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
Others were the Federal Fire Service @fedfireng, and Voice of Nigeria (VON) @voiceofnigeria, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) @officialnyscHQng, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) @firsnigeria, Nigerian Senate @ngrsenate, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM) @nidcom_gov.ng,
But findings show that while most of the agencies had less than 10 followers, NiDCOM for instance had zero followers. This brings to question the population of Nigerians on the new application, with access to information from the agencies.
With over 200 million people, reports say only 33 million Nigerians are active on social media as of January 2021. About 61.4 per cent of these users are said to be active on Twitter, “86.2 per cent use Facebook, 81.6 per cent use YouTube, 73.1 per cent use Instagram, and 67.2 per cent use Facebook Messenger.”
It will be recalled that the Nigerian government accused Twitter of inciting violence and promoting messages capable of causing disunity in the country. This is added to the that the social media tech giant deleted President Muhammadu Buhari’s controversial tweet which suggests a threat to human rights.
“Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” Buhari had stated.
Twitter had maintained that Buhari’s tweet breached its safety policy.
The Nigerian government’s decision was criticised by most Nigerians, local actors, and international rights organisations.
The United States, United Kingdom, Canadian Government, and the European Union (EU) jointly criticised the move, stating that the development breached the right to freedom of information.
However the western nations are considering regulating the social media giants in their countries.
In 2017, for instance, the German government commenced a move to regulate social media by ensuring ‘illegal’ contents or hate speeches are removed from their channels. The Canadian government is not left out. It recently passed a new bill – C-10, meant to regulate tech firms as traditional broadcasters.
Nevertheless, the Minister of Information, Culture and Orientation, Lai Mohammed defended the government’s action before the National Assembly joint committee on the Twitter suspension. He said the decision to suspend the microblogging software was taken after Twitter’s management repeatedly refused to address concerns raised by the government.
How popular is Koo among Nigerians?
Notable Nigerian hashtags such as Nigeriawillovercome, Nigerianstockexchange, Nigerian_president, #NigeriaShallBeGreatAgain monitored on the application had no tweets attached to the supposed trend.
#Koo#Nigeria#Letskoo#trending had no traffic, rather popular trends in the mobile application remain that of India.
Generally, most Nigerians are not registered with the application. As such accessing information may not be as easy as was the case Twitter was still operational in the country.
Nevertheless, other social media application such as Facebook has continued to keep Nigerians abreast of happenings, policies and decisions relating to the nation’s affairs.
In one of Twitter’s upgrades, where users are offered freedom to determine who comments or reacts to tweets, the presidency took advantage of the new feature to deny the public feedback access through restriction of comments.
Indirectly, policies and public information from the president became a one-way flow – tweets without feedbacks.
As Nigerians hope for swift resolution with Twitter, Radhakrishna, Koo’s Chief Executive Officer has assured it would integrate local language into the app. He stressed while welcoming the Nigerian government to the app, that the country shares similar language diversity with India.
“A very warm welcome to the official handle of the Government of Nigeria on @kooindia! Spreading wings beyond India now. Koo is now available in Nigeria. We are thinking of enabling the local language there as well. We are considering introducing a local Nigerian language into the Koo app.”
“Nigeria is similar to India in terms of language diversity. It has hundreds of regional languages. Koo has a global outlook and will enable micro-blogging in countries that need it the most.
“We have built a scalable platform, and while we are still enhancing the product, it’s already available for use in multiple countries today,” he said.