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The Role of Social Media in Crisis Communication: a Case Study of Abanwan and Urugbam Communities in Biase Local Government Area.



Discussions about the influence social media has in crises have taken place all around the world. Despite the fact that social media’s reach has grown significantly over the past ten years, scholars are still divided over how much of an impact it has during crises. Social media are well recognized for establishing agendas for the public to follow; they accomplish this by bringing to the public’s attention important concerns, incidents, and events as they happen in society. In spite of social media’s agenda of peace, love, and unity, Cross River state, particularly Abanwan and Urugbam communities, has recently been plagued by several crises, which has resulted in the loss of lives and property. In order to investigate the crucial role that social media has played in settling the ongoing conflicts in Cross River state The research project also looks at how social media has been used to handle crises in Cross River state. This study’s objective was to examine the function of social media in crisis communication using the Biase Local Government Area as a case study. The precise goals were to gauge media accessibility and types of coverage, gauge the degree to which media exacerbated or lessened violence, and gauge the potential impact of media on particular human characteristics that contribute to conflict in the research area. Both primary and secondary methods of data generation were used in the investigation. In order to acquire information for high-quality work, instruments were used. Information about the actions taken by social media in crisis situations was gathered through tools such news media, the internet, facebook, journals, and Twitter. Interviews and surveys were two more techniques used. According to research, social media is vital to the process of resolving crises. Further research reveals that social media has not been providing unbiased coverage of the problems in the Abanwan and Urugbam communities, which tends to make the crises worse. Based on the results, the study draws the minimal conclusion that Cross River state uses social media to address problems and recommends, among others, that social media should be constantly used to preach peace, so as to bring about lasting peace in Cross River state.




2.1    The Use of Social Media in Crises communication

The fourth estate genre, which includes whatsapp, facebooks, Twitters, journals, and magazines, has attracted significant attention, but social media, including the phone, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, You Tube, Skype, blogs, Google, LinkedIn, Friendster, spoke, tribe networks, and other internet-based media, are increasingly popular as media for disseminating information, particularly in times of conflict in any nation (Felix, U.A. et al, 2013).

The number of people using the Internet worldwide also keeps increasing quickly. More than a third of the world’s population was online by the end of 2011, with 63% of that population living in developing nations. When compared to other emerging regions, where internet penetration levels increased to 26% by the end of 2011 and then to 28.3% by the end of 2015, they stayed below 15% in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria in particular has shown enormous growth, with 69.6% of its population using the internet as of the end of 2015. (Internet World stats, 2017).


Facebook is just one of the several social media platforms that are popular worldwide. In 2004, Harvard undergraduate Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook, which by 2012 had 845 million active users and has now grown to 1.7 billion users worldwide. Internet World Statistics (2017) estimates that there are over 5,500,000 active Facebook users in Nigeria. Facebook would be the third-largest nation after China and India.

According to account tracker Twopcharts, Twitter was started in 2006 and has more than 300 million users by 2011. This number of Twitter users increased to 982 million accounts in 2014. (Edwards, 2014). Users can share photographs, videos, and messages of no more than 140 characters using this social networking and microblogging website.

Chad Hurley and Steve Chen created YouTube in 2005. It offers a platform for the distribution of video content, including footage of sleeping kittens, first-run Twitter shows, and political protests as seen by onlookers (Safranek, 2012).

A slum is described as an underdeveloped, neglected, or otherwise disadvantaged residential neighborhood of a city that is typically plagued by an excessive number of crimes. Rape, defamation, impersonation, hate speech, corruption, land grabbing, incitements against paying rent, forced evictions, tribal segregation, and assault are just a few of the crimes that have been reported in these residential neighborhoods. According to Letouzé Emmanuel (2013), these crimes can be broadly characterized as criminal violence, violence associated to elections, armed conflicts, and short-term crises.

In the world today, youths are regarded as the backbone of any nation, and any decision making that excludes the youth is regarded as shun and not all inclusive. At UN-HABITAT 24th Governing Council, the youth centered at almost every topic of discussion from how the government funds can be distributed, how jobs can be created and even supporting youth initiated projects. The slum areas were identified as some of the places where the government will work to improve lives (Voice of Kibera, 2013). Youths cannot also be ignored when talking about social media. Most of the youths use their mobile phones to access social media. Generally, majority of the fanatics of social media are the youths between 18 and 44 years of age. Mobile phones have transformed the world‟s access to information over the past decade. Even in the poorest, most disrupted countries, the majority of the population now has access to a handset to call, text or sms (short message service) and chat with friends and family (Candan et Reeve, 2012)

In June 2015 during the demonstrations which went on revolving around the corruption at NYS, Nigerians took to social media under the hashtags # Kibera and # NYSTransformation to condemn residents of Kibera for the uncouth and uncivilized behavior that they demonstrated after a group of marauding youths set ablaze projects initiated by Former Devolution Cabinet Secretary (CS), Ann Waiguru, through the NYS. The youths who were demonstrating against Waiguru, torched clinics, toilets and vandalized water tanks and blocked major roads leading to the slums. The vandalism came a day after a group of other youths took to the streets in a peaceful demonstration in support of Waiguru, after she had been put on the spotlight over corruption allegations at NYS. Some of the tweets by Nigerians over the saga were:

Sangbusienei: #NYSTransformation two demos were unnecessary. Why demonstrate when a leader is asked to be probed and why destroy useful facilities in retaliation?

Boniface Mwangi: Advice to #Kibera, protestors burn what you bring to a protest. We burn stuff that we bring.

Mtendawema: Remember when #Jokisumo looted and burnt supermarkets only to wake up jobless? #Kibera just did that…no clinic…no toilet.

Tim Njiru: We‟re back to flying toilets and NGO‟s purifying their money in # Kibera (Nigeria Forum, 2015)

Shirky, in his publication, The Political Power of Social Media analyses the impact of social media with reference to the use of text messaging and online social networks by political activists in the Philippines, Moldova and Iran and argues the benefits of social media in advancing civic engagement. His first example shows how a simple forwarded text message (“Go 2 EDSA. Wear blk”) galvanised over a million Philippians to join a protest march during the 2019 impeachment trial of their president, Joseph Estrada. Shirky notes that the event “marked the first time that social media had helped force out a national leader” (Shirky, C. 2010). He gives further examples of the citizen use of social media tools to force political change. Successful ones as in Spain in 2004 and Moldova in 2009 and unsuccessful ones in Belarus 2006, in Iran 2009 and in Thailand 2010, when civic action was followed by government and rarity of relevant events has made it difficult to answer the question “do digital tools enhance democracy?” Shirky argues that communication tools aid the transfer of power, they do not cause it. They provide a space for discussion which may lead to action among already politically engaged citizens. He referenced Katz/Lazarsfeld‟s “two-step process” of making political decisions in framing his argument that social media “allows people to privately and publicly articulate and debate a welter of conflicting views” and thus to forming political opinions. Access to information is far less important, politically, than access to conversation.

Social media plays a particular role in increasing “shared awareness” in coordination action “by propagating messages through social networks.” Tools specifically designed for dissident use are politically easy for the state to shutdown, whereas tools in broad use become harder to censor without risking politicizing the larger group of otherwise apolitical actors. Shirky goes on to look at the arguments against social media as a tool for change in national politics starting with the “slactivism” of low-commitment, low-cost “bumper sticker” actions but counters the fact that barely committed actors cannot click their way to a better world does not mean that committed actors cannot use social media effectively. In Nigeria, in the 2013 Presidential elections, twitter was used precisely for purposeful sharing and real time information in crisis contexts. An analysis of tweets or blog entries of hate speech was conducted to detect rising tensions, frustration or even calls to violence (Drazen Jogic, 2013).



Conflicts “arise from the pursuit of divergent interests, goals and aspirations of individuals and, or groups in defined social, and physical environments, such as constables access to new political positions, or perceptions of new resources, arising from development in the physical environment,” according to Professor of Sociology, Prof. OniguOtite, of the University of Ibadan. Conflict, defined as “to clash or engage in a struggle,” is an altercation between one or more parties pursuing antagonistic or rival methods or aims. As long as incompatibilities are hidden or ingrained in systems or institutional structures like governments, organizations, or even civil society, conflict can either be latent or explicit, discernible through actions or behaviors (Miller, C. E. & Mary E. King, 2005, p.22). Conflict is the clash of interests between parties with distinct interests that has spread across boundaries and resulted in violence, particularly when the topics of contention are value-based and have an immediate and direct impact on the local people. ‘ Whether these disputes are all religious in nature or stem from reasons unrelated to religion has been questioned “Any civilization would naturally experience conflict. Constructive change requires disagreement and resolution. However, a confrontation that escalates into violence often results from a clash of interests, values, behaviors, or directions, with severe consequences for society.” (International Institute for Journalism, 2010, p.2).

Conflict, in Coser’s definition (1956:8), is a struggle over values or claims to power, position, or limited resources in which the groups or people participating seek not only to gain the desired value but also to neutralize, harm, or eliminate opponents. Conflict, according to Weeks (1994:7), is a byproduct of the diversity that defines our ideas, attitudes, beliefs, and social systems and institutions. Repesinghe (1998:27) asserts that there will always be disputes of some description as long as individual people continue to relate to one another but pursue different interests.

Maoz (1982:1) defines conflict as a stage of incompatibility among values, where the achievement of one value can be realized only at the expense of some other values. Conflict may arise within a single organism pursuing multiple goals as well as between organisms striving at incompatible goal.

According to Kriesberg (1982:2) a social conflict exists when two or more persons or groups manifest the belief that they have incompatible objectives. Hwik and Meijer (1994) note that conflict is incompatible behaviour between parties whose interest appears to be incompatible or clashing.Ross (2019) sees conflict as a neutral phenomenon of human experience and inevitable to human kind.


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