All the social media platforms operating in Nigeria are now to be licensed by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) following an indefinite suspension slammed on Twitter by the Federal Government on Friday.
Twitter said in its initial reaction to the clampdown that it was investigating the action against it.
Nigerians in their thousands condemned the ban.
Government cited “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence” for its action.
On Wednesday, Information and Tourism Minister Lai Mohammed accused Twitter of playing double standards in matters concerning domestic issues, and described the company’s role in Nigeria as suspect.
Twitter had pulled down a comment by President Muhammadu Buhari in which he said the federal government would treat “those misbehaving today” in “the language they understand” in reference to the civil war.
Almost simultaneously with the suspension of Twitter yesterday, Facebook pulled down Buhari’s threat against “those misbehaving.”
In a similar move, Facebook extended the ban it placed on the account of the immediate past US president Donald Trump to two years.
Incidentally, the federal government’s ban on Twitter was broken on the same social medium by the Federal Ministry of Information. But it did not say how the ban would be enforced.
Twitter was still available to Nigerian users as at 8.30pm yesterday.
By that time, the ban had attracted over 265,000 comments, many of which derided government and its officials.
Mohammed in a statement through his Special Assistant Segun Adeyemi said the federal government has “suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria”.
He said the action stemmed from “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”
He also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to “immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria.”
Other social media platforms used by Nigerians include Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Youtube.
Twitter: ‘We’re investigating action against us’
Twitter in its first reaction to the ban yesterday said it was “deeply concerning”.
It said it was “investigating and will provide updates when we know more.”
A Twitter spokesperson had said it pulled down Buhari’s post because it “was in violation of the Twitter Rules. The account owner will be required to delete the violative Tweet and spend 12 hours with their account in read-only mode”.
The statement gave no further details.
Ban incompatible with Nigeria’s international obligations, says Amnesty
Amnesty International (AI) described the ban on Twitter as incompatible with Nigeria’s international obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
It asked government to lift the ban immediately.
“Amnesty International condemns the Nigerian government’s suspension of Twitter in Nigeria — a social medium widely used by Nigerians to exercise their human rights, including their rights to freedom of expression and access to information,” AI said in a statement posted on Twitter.
“We call on the #Nigerian authorities to immediately reverse the unlawful suspension and other plans to gag the media, repress the civic space, and undermine Nigerians’ human rights. #TwitterBan.
“This action is clearly inconsistent and incompatible with Nigeria’s international obligations, including under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
Sweden says no to Twitter suspension
The Swedish Embassy in Abuja yesterday opposed the federal government’s indefinite suspension of Twitter.
In a post via its official Twitter handle ‘Sweden in Nigeria,’ it advised the government to respect Nigerian’s right to freedom of expression.
“Nigerians have a constitutional right to exercise their freedom of expression and a right to access of information. This must be respected.
“Safeguarding free, independent media and civic spaces for democratic voices is an important part of Sweden’s”, it tweeted ending its tweet with the hashtags #DriveForDemocracy and #TwitterBan.
Soyinka: It’s a petulant gesture unbecoming of a democratically elected president
Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka branded the Twitter ban a “petulant gesture” that is “unbecoming of a democratically elected president.”
He said: “if Buhari has a problem with Twitter, he is advised to sort it out between them personally, the way Donald Trump did, not rope in the right to free expression of the Nigerian citizen as collateral damage.
“In any case, this is a technical problem Nigerians should be able to work their way around. The field of free expression remains wide open, free of any dictatorial spasms!”
PDP: It’s draconian, slide towards fascism
Opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said President Buhari, by the ban, was “pushing Nigerians to the wall”.
It described the Twitter suspension as unwarranted, draconian and a slide towards a fascist regime in our country.
It also said the suspension was “a vexatious, condemnable and barbaric move to muzzle Nigerians, particularly the youths,” ostensibly to prevent them from holding the administration “accountable for its atrocities, including human right violations, patronizing of terrorists and outright suppressive acts against innocent Nigerians.”
The party’s presidential candidate in the 2019 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, tweeted: “Hopefully, this isn’t my last tweet. #smile,”