The Nigerian Government on June 4 announced – through the Ministry of Information and Culture– indefinitely suspended Twitter’s operations in the country.
“The Federal Government has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria,” the statements reads
This suspension came after Twitter deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari that was widely perceived as offensive.
“Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand”, Buhari wrote on Twitter.
The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) confirmed its members received formal instructions from the government regulator to suspend access.
ALTON members are responsible for the mobile networks that the majority of Nigerians use to access Twitter.
As an alternative bypass, Nigerians began to opt for the use of virtual private networks (VPN) to access the social media platform.
In a developing statement, Nigeria’s Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, has ordered the prosecution of those violating the ban on Twitter.
Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN has directed for the immediate prosecution of offenders of the Federal Government ban on Twitter operations in Nigeria.
“Malami directed the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation (DPPF) at the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to swing into action and commence in earnest the process of prosecution of violators of the Federal Government De-activation of operations of Twitter in Nigeria.
“Malami directed the DPPF to liaise with the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, National Communication Communication (NCC) and other relevant government agencies to ensure the speedy prosecution of offenders without any further delay.”
What Data Says;
According to the Global Digital Overview 2020, Nigeria has 118.1 million people – 58 percent of its population not connected to the internet.
With Nigeria having an approximate population of 200 million, there are about 40 million Twitter users in Nigeria .
Nigeria also joins other countries like China, Iran, North Korea and Turkmenistan that have suspended the social platforms from operating in their country.
Data Reportal also published that Twitter is the sixth most used social platform in Nigeria. It comes behind WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook Messenger.
Also, Paradigm initiative, extracting an estimation from Netblocks’ Cost of Shutdown Tool (COST) said, ” Each hour costs Nigeria N90.7M ($250,600). A total shutdown costs $5,593,819 per hour.”
International Bodies Intervene
The diplomatic missions of the EU, US, Britain, Canada and Ireland issued a joint statement condemning the ban, saying that “banning systems of expression is not the answer.”
“Precisely the moment when Nigeria needs to foster inclusive dialogue and expression of opinions, as well as share vital information in this time of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“The path to a more secure Nigeria lies in more, not less, communication,” it added.
Amnesty International condemned the ban, calling on Nigeria to “immediately reverse the unlawful suspension”.
“This repressive action is a clear attempt to censor dissent & stifle the civic space,” Human Rights Watch researcher Anietie Ewang said