Nigeria last week banned Twitter indefinitely following the removal of a tweet by President Buhari. The tweet somewhat threatened the Igbo tribe of the South East region of Nigeria with force. Nigeria had a civil war between 1967 and 1970 in which more than two million people lost their lives. The Igbos asked to secede from Nigeria and when the demands were not met, it led to a war that saw the Nigerian military come down heavily on the Biafra soldiers and consequently, the Biafra side lost far more and since then there have been agitations and several attempts have been made to no avail.
The Nigerian government fearing that Twitter can be used to organise protests and other grassroot agitations decided to ban it and ask other foreign social media companies to get a license to operate in Nigeria. Last year’s #EndSARS protests were organised using Twitter and the government thinks the modern day Biafra agitators can use the same medium to organised violent protests. But there’s one problem with that argument and it is that the same thing was posted on Facebook and since Facebook didn’t remove the post at the time, the weren’t banned. The same kind of protests that can be organised using Twitter can be done using Facebook. In fact, Facebook Groups can be more dangerous as you require permission to join such groups. Facebook wasn’t banned and it says a lot about the denial of the government that the Twitter ban has nothing to do with the President’s tweet.
The Nigerian House of Representatives Speaker, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila has now asked the House Committee on Judiciary and Communications to investigate the ban as they invite the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed who announced the ban to answer some questions.
While some politicians argue that Twitter may lose money as a result of the ban, the Speaker however noted that Nigerian enterprises and large youth population would lose even more. You see many people do business via Twitter without even having to pay Twitter for ads. In a country that has a very high unemployment rate of about 35 percent in face of a free falling Naira, I believe the Nigerian economy will feel the pain more. The governments of lending agencies through their embassies have expressed concern over the ban and this may have a bad effect going forward.
Any economy where the leader of the country can ban companies whenever they like without any due process sends a bad signal. It doesn’t give foreign investors confidence that they can have long term plans regarding their investments. The EU, US and other nations have said they understand the government but added that you can’t stifle free speech in the name of national security.
Many governments have temporarily banned social media sites and reinstated them after they realised their agenda. Nigeria is the latest and has been added to a very short list of nations that have banned Twitter temporarily or permanently. See the list below,
- North Korea
The countries that have blocked Twitter before and have now reinstated it include;
The Twitter ban in Nigeria is indefinite and we urge the government to lift it urgently to allow for free flow of information and ideas. The Nigerian youth is productive and if given the right platform can make a huge difference. Look at the startups Nigeria has produced and is producing and you will be amazed. Many of them have to sell their ideas using Twitter and while our culture promotes respect for elders, there are some who may use Twitter for fraud and other vices but that shouldn’t warrant a blanket ban that would affect those using it for good. There are some bad eggs in the police but there are many good officers too, we won’t ban the police because of the work they do to secure the nation. Twitter and Facebook banned Trump who was the President of the country they operate from and the US government has respected their decision because they are a private organisation. You can’t kills jobs and businesses because the feeling of one person was hurt. It doesn’t make any sense.