The Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. who served in the army against secessionists during the Biafra war, wrote on Twitter:
“Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”
This tweet in which Buhari threatened the sect called IPOB in the South-Eastern part of the country after he blamed them for attacks on government buildings was deleted by Twitter.
On 5 June 2021, the Nigerian government officially put an indefinite ban on Twitter, restricting it from operating in Nigeria after the social media platform deleted Buhari’s tweet.
The ban was announced by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who said that the operations of the microblogging and social networking service Twitter has been indefinitely suspended in Nigeria.
The ban has been condemned by Amnesty International, the United States, the European Union, and some other world leaders.
Buhari claimed that the social media platform is being used for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.
Twitter, which recently opened its first African office in Ghana, has said that, “the announcement made by the Nigerian Government that they have suspended Twitter’s operations in Nigeria is deeply concerning. It added that ”we’re investigating and will provide updates when we know more.”
Back in April, Twitter opted for Ghana to be its African headquarters when many thought the social media company ought to have chosen Nigeria.
It cited Ghana’s support of free speech, online freedom, and the Open Internet as reasons for its choice. It seems it was a smart move judging by today’s event.
After much negotiations with the Nigerian officials, Twitter spokesperson finally addressed the issue and said:
“We continue to engage with the Nigerian government and we are committed to charting a path forward to the restoration of Twitter for everyone in Nigeria. Discussions with the Nigerian government have been respectful and productive — we look forward to seeing the service restored very soon.”
Former U.S. President Donald Trump is the only world leader who supported the ban, probably because Trump was also banned from using Twitter and other major social media.
Trump has even taken Twitter to court so that he would be allowed to tweet again.
Due to pressure from the international community, the Nigerian government has outlined some conditions that should be met by Twitter before the ban can be lifted.
The Minister of Information and Culture who has previously called Twitter’s activities in Nigeria suspicious due to its influence on the End SARS protests, issued a statement which says:
“It will be licensed by the broadcasting commission, and must agree not to allow its platform to be used by those who are promoting activities that are inimical to the corporate existence of Nigeria.”
Some Nigerians have resorted to using VPN, although lots of them can not afford it.
It was reported that the ban has cost Nigeria over 6 billion Naira and will also contribute to the worsening unemployment in the country.
Still, Buhari is not moved to lift the ban. In the same vein, the ban must have cost Twitter much more money than it costs Nigeria.
The country’s attorney general at first openly threatened to prosecute citizens who bypass the ban but then denied doing so after a screenshot of a Twitter deactivation notification he shared on Facebook showed a VPN logo.
Although on 15 September 2021, Lai Mohammed said the Nigerian government will lift the ban on Twitter in a few days, at the time of this report, the ban is still not lifted.
On 1st October 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari in his Independence day broadcast addressed the issue. He said that Twitter must meet the Nigerian government’s five conditions before the suspension of the social media platform will be lifted.
According to him, Twitter must pay attention to national security and cohesion, Registration, physical presence and representation in Nigeria, Fair taxation, Dispute resolution, and Local content.
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