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‘Social media can help in fight against violent extremism’

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‘A Great Day in Gidi.’ Participants pose at the end of Social Media Week in Lagos…yesterday PHOTO: FEMI ADEBESIN-KUTI

The social media can play a major role in the fight against violent extremism in Nigeria if well articulated and adequately explored.

This formed part of the submission at one of the sessions of this year’s Social Media Week (SMW) in Lagos, which ended yesterday.

SMW Lagos, now in its sixth year, has come to be another avenue, where thorny issues that have to do with governance, technology and the citizens are brought to the fore and dissected adequately.

The SMW , with the theme, ‘Closer,’ was a conference that provided insights and inspiration to help people and businesses understand how to achieve more in a hyper-connected world.

At the session on ‘Battling Violent Extremism through the Social Media,’ it was revealled that members of the deadly Boko Haram sect fleeing the northeast in the wake of military bombardment, are now in Lagos as security personnel and okada riders.

Representative of Bishop Matthew Kukah and Head of the Kukah Centre, Rev. Father Atta Barkindo, said there is urgent need to hamonise strategies in the fight against Boko Haram.

Barkindo noted that Nigeria must do everything possible to confront the increasing violent extremism, which he said was capable of dividing the country.

He lamented that people, especially in the northeast, have been completely dis-empowered, adding: “No food, no infrastructure and no security. There have been military and humanitarian interventions, but there have not been any communication strategy to actually curb the menace.

“A communication strategy, using the social media platforms, can do a lot to help.”

The cleric stressed the need for concerted effort to integrate the northeast back into the Nigerian society and called for a closer regional cooperation between Nigeria and Cameroun to reduce the influence of Boko Haram.

Head of Media and Communication, Presidential Committee on Northeast Initiative (PCNI), Alkasim Abdulkadir, said the Boko Haram war is an asymmetric one that has become difficult to conquer.

Abdulkadir noted that Boko Haram menace should not be seen as a north or northeast problem, saying: “It is a Nigerian problem, which requires collective effort to curb.

“You may not know, there is a Boko Haram cell in Lagos. Moreover, as the military men are pounding them in that region, they run to other parts of the country.

“In Lagos, many people have employed them as security men, some are riding okada. It is a time bomb, if we fail to hamonise our strategies for their defeat,” he stated.

Abdulkadir, who said a report estimated that about $9 billion would be needed to redevelop the north, especially the northeast, following damages done by the insurgents, disclosed that the people, institution and government must work assiduously together to end terrorists’ reign.

To a former director of NSRP, Mrs. Hamsatu Allamin, almost every family in the region have their sons as member of the sect, adding: “Some of our mothers are the ones keeping guns and other ammunitions for them, because there have not been proper forms of communication.”

According to her, there should be a proper way to integrate and re-orientate those who have surrendered back to society.

The SMW programme, which started on Monday, brought people from Nigeria and the world together, including the clerics, activists, entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, government, and entertainers, among others.

The sessions, well-packaged, tried as much as possible to underscore the importance of not just using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, WeChat, amongst others, just for the fun of communicating, but to serve as a platform to advocate change, repositioning of all the sectors of the economy, even governance.

Co-Founder of SMW, Obi Asika, said the yearly event helps to stir up the conscious of Nigerians that they need to explore the social media to reposition the country.

Attesting to the prowess of technology during his session, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, said the Commission would consolidate on the success of the last general elections.

Yakubu said INEC would rely greatly on the strength of technology to deliver on next year’s elections and even the two governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states in July and September, this year, respectively.


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