Jerome Pasquier, the French Ambassador to Nigeria, has said the Federal Government’s suspension of the microblogging site, Twitter, is not the best solution to curing the ills of social media.
Pasquier said this in an interview with journalists on the sidelines of the programmes held to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the French Institute for Research in Africa in Nigeria on Friday night.
The ambassador said France is in support of the European Union’s reaction to the suspension of Twitter by the Federal Government. The EU delegation in Nigeria had condemned the ban and asked that the platform’s services be restored.
According to him, the suspension would affect the means of livelihoods of a huge population of youths who earn their living using social media platforms like Twitter and others.
He said: “The EU delegation issued a communique and France is part of the EU. Of course, we share their view and the concern has been expressed. After that, I don’t want to go into it because it is Nigeria’s domestic issue and it is up to Nigerian people to say what they think about it.
“I am a bit concerned because I understand there are plenty of young people in Nigeria creating business activities using this type of tools – Twitter, and it is very important for them to be able to continue to earn their living. I hope the government will find a solution. All countries have some questions about social media and nobody has really found yet the right solution, banning is obviously not the best solution.”
Speaking on the French institute’s celebration, the ambassador said: “About IFRA, we are very happy to have this French institute here in Ibadan and it is doing a very good job. It is very important to have research in social sciences to better understand Nigerian society.
“I think we will need to keep in best conditions all the documentations especially with the humidity in Nigeria and so on. Some of these materials can be destroyed very quickly. So, it is a good thing to talk about the digitisations of these materials. It will give much more access to these materials through the Internet from Europe.”
The acting Director of the Institute of African Studies, Dr Senayon Olaoluwa, identified the paucity of funds as one of the major problems to digitising humanities in Africa.
Another expert at the Institute of African Studies, Dr Ayo Adeduntan, also said whenever the government embarked on prioritisation, institutes like the Institute of African Studies usually received the first blow.
The Director, Office of International Programmes, University of Ibadan, Dr Ayotola Aremu, said IFRA and the university had enjoyed a mutual relationship for the past 30 years.
The Federal Government announced the suspension of Twitter on 4 June, two days after the microblogging site deleted a tweet of President Muhammadu Buhari after it was deemed to have “violated the Twitter rules”.
According to a statement by Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, the ban was placed on Twitter due to the “persistent use” of the platform in purportedly encouraging activities that “undermines Nigeria’s corporate existence”.
But the US, UK, Canada, the EU and Ireland in a joint statement on 5 June expressed their disappointment over the Government of Nigeria’s announcement suspending #Twitter and proposing registration requirements for other social media.
The US had earlier in a standalone statement on 5 June, warning that the ban sends a “poor message” to Nigerians, current and potential investors as well as businesses.
Other members of the international community such as the United Kingdom, Sweden and Canada had also weighed in on the matter, with all saying that Nigerians have the constitutional right to freely express themselves on Twitter.