Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 June 2021:
The suspension of Twitter in Nigeria has generated reactions from local and international stakeholders, as the action tells on both the economic and social life of Nigerians who use the micro-blogging platform for business and information.
On June 5 2021, the Nigerian government suspended Twitter, restricting the leading social media company from operating in the country. The ban came after Twitter deleted a “genocidal” tweet made by President Muhammadu Buhari warning agitators from the southeastern part of the country of a repeat of the 1967-1970 Biafra Civil War that killed an estimated 1 million civilians, mainly by starvation.
“Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Biafra war. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” Buhari’s now-deleted tweet read.
In response to Twitter’s action, the Nigerian government suspended the platform, blocking an estimated 40 million Nigerian users.
Twitter seems to have been irking the Buhari-led administration for a long time, considering how most activists and secession agitators favour the platform to vent their displeasure against the Nigerian government.
During the EndSARS protests in October, Twitter was the major online rallying point for activists – raising awareness about police brutality and organizing mass protests on the micro-blogging app. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also tweeted in support of the movement, calling for donations via cryptocurrency for the protesters. Entertainment and sports superstars, such as Kanye West, Rihana, and Anthony Joshua, also supported the protest via their various Twitter handles. The June 5 ban is a culmination of the long-running battle between the social media site and the government.
EU, US, Canada, others condemn the ban
Meanwhile, the international community, including the US and EU, has been condemning the ban, asking the Nigerian government to reverse it. The United States “condemns the ongoing suspension of Twitter by the Nigerian government and subsequent threats to arrest and prosecute Nigerians who use Twitter,” the US Department of State said in a statement. The diplomatic missions of the UK, US, EU, Canada and Ireland also raised concern over the ban in a joint statement. “Banning systems of expression is not the answer,” it said. Amnesty International and other civil right organizations also condemned the ban.
The suspension has started taking tolls on the already struggling Nigerian economy. According to a global internet monitor, NetBlocks, Nigeria loses about $250,000 each hour the ban is in effect. As one of the country’s most popular social media platforms, many Nigerians utilize Twitter for business activities. For many youths, it’s not just an information and entertainment hub but also an avenue to meet potential clients, get jobs, advertise and sell products and services.
Many built their businesses around the app, and being restricted from it even for a day means a huge loss. Twitter is also about the biggest online media where financial institutions, telecommunication companies, and other service providers advertise and engage their customers. The platform has also been used to help locate missing persons, raise funds for the sick and vulnerable and summon ambulances for accident victims. If the ban remains in place for much longer, the effects could be worse.
VPN to the rescue
Despite the ban, however, many Nigerians continue to tweet using Virtual Private Networks (VPN), which help them bypass the restriction by the telecom operators. This includes prominent people in the country, such as religious leaders and political leaders. In reaction to the defiance, Attorney-General Abubakar Malami threatened to prosecute Nigerians using VPN to access Twitter.
Former Minister of Education Oby Ezekwesili, who has been using the platform after the ban, has dared the government, saying she’d be happy to be prosecuted. Some legal experts also said they weren’t aware of any law that makes it illegal to tweet, while others say police can make an arrest because of the sweeping powers given to them. But no one has been arrested or prosecuted since the ban.
Twitter said it is “deeply concerned” by the ban. In another statement, the tech giant said it is in talks with the Nigerian government to restore the service. But it remains to be seen if both parties would reach an agreement in the coming days.
About the author
Olusegun Akinfenwa is a political correspondent for Immigration News, a news organization affiliated with Immigration Advice Service (IAS). IAS is a leading immigration law firm that helps people immigrate and settle in the UK.
When president Buhari tweeted warning Youths about the dangers of agitating, or reawaken the Biafra war that started followed the 1967 counter coups of 1966 which saw the deaths of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, a Northerner, the first and only prime minister of Nigeria, he was on to something. For many Nigerians the Biafra war and the effects on the country should rather be laid to rest, and never rear its ugly head again in this nation of almost 200million people . But for Ibgos, the war was a life defining moment for their place in the Nigerian nation. Something they haven’t forgotten in a hurry. The assassination of Mr Balewa, by coup leaders led by General Ironsi and others, in the 1966 coup, saw a counter coups led by Northern officers Lieutenant – Colonel Yakubu Gowon. To the Military, he was chosen as a compromise candidate to lead the military government. One thing that works to his advantage, he was a Northerner, a Christian, and came from a minority tribe.
And in the context of Nigerian politics at the time, maybe even today is a rarity. And he has good reputation within the military. Following the turmoil of the counter coups of 1967,and the widespread revenge killings of Igbos in the north, this unfortunate events in which a million of Igbos were forced out from the North, to the South of the country . Hence the Republic of Biafra was created with the aim of seceding from the Nigerian Federation led by a young 33 year old Igbo military officer Colonel Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. The war lasted until 1970, in which millions died mostly by Starvation, before the secessionist finally surrendered to the Nigerian Federation. Given the present security threats facing Nigeria, Boka Haram in the North, Banditry, Kidnapping for ransom, the on going low intensity wars in the oil rich Niger delta, I think the president was right to remind the agitators of wars where it will lead Nigeria as a Nation. At the same time, I believe social media networking sites should take their responsibilities seriously.
Right now social media platforms have monopolies power, and it has an important role to play. Therefore, there should be some form self regulation in the highest standards, so they don’t starts wars in fragile States likes us in Africa. As for the Buhari and his government the tweeter ban, I think is stretching it too far. Or better Still social media behemoths like Facebook Twitter, and YouTube, should be declared a public service organisations, so they can be regulated correctly like mobile phone providers.
Gentlemen – I have always maintained that a rooster doesn’t wear a red crown on its head to prove to the world it is a Sultan – it is just a part of its intrinsic God given nature; Even so, It is also the intrinsic natures of men who grab
power using the barrel of a gun to continue in their ways of mischief,indiscretions,bullying and oppression of a helpless and hopeless people under their rule of tyranny. Ask me not to believe in the exploits of a Coup plotter that has changed his blood stained military attire for those of Italian,Arab,or French designer suits – nothing’s changed but just the outside appearance – their souls are still rotten to the innermost core. And why would anyone think that an opportunist like Buhari would become a savior to the good people of Nigeria?
Folks, an old dog cannot learn new tricks neither can an aging turtle change its zigzagging crawling ways. Its all part of it’s ingrained,underlying nature. The authoritarian tendencies in men who have seized power through violence never goes away – though they pose as saints and pious religious monks be wary of them. Buhari doesn’t understand that these are new times; an age of prosperity and progress that is being controlled by strong far reaching tentacles of social media; Twitter holds the right to delete contents and postings it finds disturbing and offensive on its platform and there is nothing anyone can do to change that.
But then again, who can blame a lawless, mindless, ruthless anarchist that once overthrew legit power to abide by the civilized rules of mutual respect, decency and fair play created by tolerant men and women with discerning minds? A country on her knees frozen stiff by abject poverty and corruption,where their population resembles grains of sand in the Sahara, where tribes are breathing furiously and suspiciously on each others necks has added salt to open wounds by deciding to stifle free speech and individual rights in a volatile, shaky, jittery country called Nigeria.It’s time for Old dinosaurs to retire.(lol)