Following a recent speech made by Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari on national TV about carrying out an unexpected and shocking attack on secessionists in the country, was a tweet on Twitter to further spread the information on social media.
However, the presidential tweet violated Twitter’s rules and was therefore taken down. As a result of Twitter’s action, the Nigerian government ordered the suspension of Twitter on the ground of misinformation by its users:
“the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence”.
The government says it is their duty to protect the country and wouldn’t hesitate to persecute anyone who goes against it coming from the Nigerian attorney general’s office.
In 2017, Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s information minister blamed “the siege of disinformation and fake news” on social media. Two years later, he supported an anti-social-media bill titled: Protections from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations. The bill was sponsored by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa of the ruling APC party.
Reactions To The Twitter Suspension
The government has created a body, NCI (National Council on Information) to carry out the regulation of social media.
Nationally and internationally, Nigeria’s decision to suspend Twitter was criticized and greatly condemned by EU, US, Canada, Ireland and the UK.
Nigerians who frequent Twitter about 40 million have gone all out using VPNs to complain despite the decree.
Using VPN, one Alumona says reacting to Twitter’s suspension “I thought it was a joke.”
This is the same platform that aided APC, the ruling party to victory in the 2015 presidential election online.
President Buhari, who imprisoned hundreds of Nigerians after taking power in a 1983 coup employed social media as part of a campaign strategy. He was later seen as a “converted democrat” in his fourth attempt at the presidency. The president also has a track record under his previous administration for charging and imprisoning journalists.
Further actions on WhatsApp, Zoom, Netflix, and Skype
The Nigerian government has also ordered internet services including WhatsApp, Zoom, Netflix, Skype, to obtain licenses from the National Broadcasting Commission before operating in the country.
According to Joachim MacEbong, a senior analyst at Lagos-based political-risk analysis firm SBM Intelligence:
“Clearly, the registration is a pretext to regulation…They are showing that they are prepared to clamp down on democratic freedom. The next two years are going to be difficult.”
And Gbenga Sesan, an executive director of the Paradigm Initiative, a pan-African social enterprise working on digital inclusion and rights says:
“Businesses in Nigeria use digital media to reach customers, expose their brands and communicate with various stakeholders. That will definitely be affected by this erratic decision.”
This year, 2021, out of 180 countries Nigeria was ranked 120th in Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index.
By Elijah Christopher
Elijah Christopher is a journalist at A New Touch Of Africa, is also a creative writer, a poet, and an IT enthusiast. He contributed to the collaborative poem written in celebration of Edwin Morgan Centenary, the first Glasgow poet laureate and Scottish national poet from the University of Glasgow. He loves meeting people and learning about new places, cultures, events, and lifestyles.