Nigeria Suspends Twitter Operations, Says Platform “Undermines Company Existence”

Through its Ministry of Information and Culture, the Nigerian government today announced its decision to suspend the operations of the social media platform Twitter in the country.

The statement, made by Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed, and signed by his media assistant Segun Adeyemi, could see telecommunications in the country preventing Nigerians from using Twitter.

Here is the press release issued by the ministry:

The federal government has indefinitely suspended the operations of the microblogging and social networking service Twitter in Nigeria. Information and Culture Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed announced the suspension in a statement issued Friday in Abuja, citing the platform’s current use for activities that could undermine the existence of Nigerien businesses.

The minister said the federal government also ordered the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately start the licensing process for all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria.

Today’s announcement is the culmination of events that occurred over the past week. Yesterday, Twitter deleted tweets and videos of President Muhammadu Buhari uttering threats of punishment against a sect called IPOB in the southeast of the country after accusing him of attacking government buildings. He then referred to the events of the Nigerian civil war in the 1960s, which seemed to offend many Nigerians.

Buhari, who was the country’s head of state in the 1980s and served in the army against secessionists, said young Nigerians in the south-east of the country were too young to remember the horrific events during the war. According to him, the activities of today’s secessionists are probably heading towards war; therefore, it was proactive to stop them forcefully beforehand.

“Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who have been through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” he said.

Twitter opted to delete the tweet after violating its abusive behavior policy and several calls from Nigerians to delete it. Twitter also suspended the president’s account, leaving it in “read-only mode” for 12 hours.

Following his decision, Mr. Mohammed called the social media giant saying his decision was flawed and said the president has the right to express his thoughts on events affecting the country. He also raised suspicions about the platform’s intention in the country. “Twitter can have its own rules, it is not the universal rule. If the President anywhere in the world feels very bad and concerned about a situation, he is free to express such opinions. Twitter’s mission in Nigeria is very, very suspicious, “he said.

In an act of retaliation, Nigeria suspended the platform’s operations in the country. Although Twitter does not have an office in the country, this announcement can still be distributed. And while there has not yet been a ban on social media, Nigeria’s current administration is no stranger to schemes to restrict access to the internet, certain websites, or social media. This was one of the tactics used during EndSARS events that rocked the country in October 2020. Given past events in other African countries where the internet has been restricted or banned in one form or another, this is an obvious ploy by the Nigerian government to double down on these tactics and use telecommunications operators to suppress freedom of expression.

In an email to TechCrunch, Twitter, which recently opened its first African office in Ghana, said: “The announcement by the Nigerian government that it has suspended Twitter operations in Nigeria is of deep concern. We are investigating and will provide updates when we find out more. “

In April, Twitter chose Ghana as its African headquarters after many believed the social media company chose Nigeria. He cited the Premier’s support for free speech, online freedom and the open Internet as the reasons for his choice, which was a smart move judging by today’s event.

This is a developing story …

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