FG’s Suspension of Twitter Elicits Reactions

Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture
Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture

The federal government has come under attack following its decision to suspend twitter, the microblogging and social networking service in Nigeria. Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture had announced the decision Friday citing an untoward attitude on the part of the technology company.

The minister claimed that the social media network could be used to undermine Nigeria’s corporate existence. Mohammed also said that he had directed the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC to commence the process of licensing all over the top media service, OTT and social media corporations in the country.

But because the suspension came hours after twitter censored the official account of President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerians are angry that the government has demonstrated that it is impervious to criticism and also opposed to freedom of expression.

Olumide Akpata, president of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA said the body of lawyers sees the action as a violation of “the right of Nigerians to freely express their constitutionally guaranteed opinions through the medium. ” Social Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP agrees with the NBA and also expressed the willingness to challenge the action in court. Sweden has also asked the government to respect the right of Nigerians to free speech.

Budgit, a non-government organization, condemns the suspension as “an attack on democracy and also an attempt to shut down citizens’ voices”. It therefore asked the government to reverse it.

Debo Adebayo, otherwise known as Mr. Macaroni, a comedian and activist, faults the action of the administration, recalling that “General Buhari and APC used this same Twitter to criticize past administrations and campaign for elections… Now that the citizens are holding them accountable with the same platform, heat is catching them (meaning they have become uncomfortable). They want to take away the people’s freedom to speak. Dictatorship 101.” He did that on twitter before the suspension took effect.

On his part, Kola Ologbondiyan, publicity secretary of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP said the decision was taken out of fear that Nigerians would continue to expose the “evil machinations ” of the Buhari administration.

It will be recalled that Twitter was used for effect to start and sustain, even raise money for the popular #EndSARS protest October last year. It has also been a platform for Nigerians to express their feelings about goings on in the country, particularly the pervading insecurity and economic crisis.

However, as soon as the decision by the government was announced, some twitter users started educating Nigerians on how to use a virtual private network, VPN.

Twitter sanctioned President Buhari following a tweet suggestive of recalling the civil war pogrom to threaten Igbo people of the southeast region because of the restiveness there of recent. Facebook, another social media service, has also deleted the controversial comment on the president’s account.

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