Thursday, 15 August 2013

Harnessing the Power of Social Media in the Fight against Low level Corruption



By Idamwenhor Enayaba

The Nigeria Police on Tuesday 6th August announced via its Facebook page that the police officer attached to the Lagos State Command Motor Traffic Division (State MTD) caught on tape demanding bribe has been arrested and currently in detention awaiting the commencement of his orderly room trial (Nigeria Police version of court). This marks the achievement of another milestone using the social media. He was not only caught on tape but through the popularization of the video via social media, it has prompted the response of the Inspector General of Police.
While many Nigerians would chose to fraternize and socialize with this video, it is for me a great discovery that can be used to correct many of the ills in Nigeria. Weeks back was the case of a Nigeria judge in the Gambia and now, a police officer. With this same social media, Nigerians came out victorious at the end in July this year when some people with vested interests attempted to smuggle “child marriage” into the constitution through the ongoing constitutional review in the Senate. The promptness with which the NPF has responded and a stand taken on it, yet reechoes the feeling that lots of opportunities lie in the social media that most times we are not fully conscious of. However, Nigerians can take advantage of these tools to strengthen both public and private institutions accountability if gadgets like smart phones and various social media platforms are adequately and appropriately put to use. 
Nigeria is faced with a chronic and pervasive impunity virus that has practically infested every facets of live in Nigeria and one of these viruses is corruption. Corruption has practically brought Nigeria to its knees with majority currently in the vicious circle of struggle to survive. Despite the noise about fighting corruption and array of anticorruption agencies that abounds, corruption remains pervasive. Nigeria’s global Corruption Perception Index rating has continued on a shameful slide. However, social media presents an opportunity for the Nigerian public to become directly involve in the fight against corruption. Multimedia enabled phones and gadgets have functions that enable users to capture videos or pictures of people engaging in corruption. Some Non-Governmental-Organizations and Civil society Organizations/groups are already taking the lead in this respect. The CLEEN Foundation has a project running called stopthebribes. The online platform (www.stopthebribes.net) presents an all-encompassing approach to fighting low level corruption, especially among public officials. The project broadens the fight against low level corruption in Nigeria by using technology particularly social media platforms and smart phones which have become popular among the younger generation and also accessible to low income populace in the country. The organization in partnership with various civil society groups and government institutions uses an Ushahidi-based user-friendly ICT platform to monitor and report incidents of bribery, extortion or corruption by public officials that engage with members of the public on the streets, highways or in the course of other official engagements. The platform accepts information in picture, text, audio and video forms which provide evidence of incidents via diverse channels like mobile phones calls, text messages and emails or through direct entries on the website. Interface is also created between the platform and social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Blog, etc., so that messages from them can automatically be converted and integrated on the map showing hotspots where different incidences are taking place across Nigeria. The identity of members of the public using this platform is kept in strict confidentiality. As part of the partnership with the police, the Stopthebrides Corruption Incident Tracking Room (CITR) is also located in the IG’s secretariat and Force Intelligence Bureau. The reports generated from the platform are presently made part of the IG’s monthly briefing at the Force Headquarters.
Moving forward, the fight against corruption has started, the age of “sidon-look” is over; the time to act is now. Nigerians can no longer continue to wait on government alone. Corruption in Nigeria is as large as the Nigerian population and it will take the concerted effort of all through harnessing the potentials that abounds in the social media to strengthen accountability in Nigeria and reduce corruption to its barest minimum.




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