According to Peoples Gazette, Buhari administration provided funding for Adamu Garba’s Crowwe Social media platform with hopes that the government dominate internal narratives while competing with Facebook and Twitter for the audience in Nigeria.
The bank documents that showcased the transfer of funds from the Central Bank of Nigeria to Mr Garba’s IPI Solutions, a software engineering firm Mr Garba runs was obtained by the Gazette. This software engineering company developed and deployed the Crowwe social media app.
From the bank document shown below, the Central Bank of Nigeria wired a whooping amount of N138 million to Mr Garba’s IPI Solutions on May 21, 2019 as part of the several transfers. The documents added that in the course of the Crowwe app development, Buhari’s administration approached Mr Garba.
Despite being a key beneficiary of the social media storm that undermined the Jonathan administration and magnified the opposition’s arguments before of the 2015 presidential election, Mr Buhari has consistently railed against social media’s detrimental influence since taking office.
Mr Buhari began using various measures to govern online speech after realizing the huge power that social media has in affecting public opinion, especially among those with little education or financial means to use the Internet.
Members of his ruling APC pushed a so-called social media bill a few months after taking government in 2015, which civil rights activists felt was too provocative to be allowed in a democratic country. The law was defeated summarily, but the administration pushed at least two more similar proposals, one of which advocated the death sentence for internet expression and was defeated by the Bukola Saraki-led parliament.
According to sources acquainted with the subject, Mr Buhari agreed with his advisors immediately after narrowly securing a second term that it was important to manage social media. Several strategies were proposed to ensure that the government’s message dominated public space with little to no opposition from residents.
An administration official said;
“It was while the government was trying to find ways to control the media space that Adamu Garba’s company was picked as one of the promising businesses that could proffer solutions,” “The seriousness of controlling social media cannot be overplayed.”
In 2018, Mr Garba name was recognized after expressing interest in running for Presidency against Buhari. He became a recognizable voice backing President Buhari after he eventually abandoned his campaign. According to insiders briefed on the topic under our policy on anonymous sources, the regime contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to Mr. Garba’s firm in the hope that its Crowwe platform would make a significant dent in the appeal of Facebook and Twitter.
However, two years after funding began and several months after Crowwe was released to the public, the software has failed to appeal to Nigerians on the scale that both the regime and its makers envisioned. Only a few thousand people have signed up, and even then, the app has received several complaints about its operation.
Mr Garba attempted to knock Twitter out of Nigeria as part of his efforts to bring Crowwe to life, filing a lawsuit against the platform in the aftermath of last October’s momentous #EndSARS campaign. Mr Garba, more than any other social media opponent, saw Twitter’s presence in Nigeria as an existential danger to his own site and anticipated that its removal would drive Nigerians to his platform by default.
However, his hopes were dashed again this month when his platform failed to gain traction despite the government’s Twitter ban. Instead, Mr. Garba discovered that his Crowwe app had been deleted from the Google Play Store a week after the Twitter ban, due to a flood of user complaints. He stated that the app was taken down to upload, but he could not explain why only Crowwe needed to be pulled down before an update to improve user experience could be released. Following their departure from Twitter earlier this month, Mr Buhari, his administration officials, and supporters were forced to shift to the Indian site Koo because the app was virtually inoperable.
The administration did not respond to The Gazette’s request for comment on its relations with Mr Garba. Mr Garba agreed to The Gazette that the government provided funds but explained that it was one of several payments made by the government for a series of “intervention” initiatives his firm completed for the government.
“We do projects and receive payments from the Central Bank,” Mr Garba said. “I think it is a project we did for the EFCC.” HHe remained mute on whether the projects were procured through competitive bidding in accordance with current government procurement procedures.
Crowwe was “100 per cent developed by us internally,’’ Mr Adamu added. “We are even looking for investors locally and internationally. We are looking for investors to further scale up and improve Crowwe capacity.”
Information from Peoples Gazette was used in this piece.