Nigerians have expressed shock and outrage over the decision of the Federal Government to ban indefinitely the operations of Twitter in the country.
This is coming two days after the platform deleted President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet referring to a civil war in the southeastern Biafra region, which it says violated the company’s abusive behaviour policy, leading to a 12-hour suspension of his account.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced the suspension on Friday in a statement in Abuja, citing the persistent use of the platform for activities capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.
But the ban was greeted with condemnation as some Nigerians describe the move as an infringement on their fundamental right to free speech, saying it was draconian and not reflective of a democratic government.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the suspension of Twitter, is “a vexatious, condemnable and barbaric move to muzzle Nigerians, particularly the youths, ostensibly to prevent them from holding the overtly corrupt, vindictive and divisive Buhari administration accountable for its atrocities, including human right violations, patronizing of terrorists and outright suppressive acts against innocent Nigerians”.
Some stakeholders in the nation’s Information Technology (IT) sector described the suspension as worrisome, noting that Nigeria would be partly disconnected from the rest of the world.
A telecoms expert, Kehinde Aluko, asked: “Who is advising the Federal Government? I don’t see how this will work. Twitter has no office in Nigeria, yet you are banning. Is it that they don’t know that it is a global village, and with VPN, people can remain connected?”
Meanwhile, Amnesty International has called on the government to “immediately reverse the unlawful suspension and other plans to gag the media, repress the civic space, and undermine Nigerians’ human rights”.
Expressing his frustration, a Twitter user Kelechi Okorie, wrote: “They have just justified Twitter’s decision to set up its Africa office in Ghana ahead of Nigeria. This same minister blamed the media for making Twitter choose Ghana”.
Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, a pan-African social enterprise working on digital inclusion and digital rights, said the move “will only end in disgrace” and urged users to download a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to retain access.
Some users cited the effectiveness of last year’s #EndSARS protests against police brutality on the platform as one of the reasons behind the suspension.