Outrage as Twitter ban enters 100th day in Nigeria

One hundred days after Twitter was banned in Nigeria, many youths have taken to social media to express their anger.

They complained that though Twitter has been banned, they won’t give up on criticising Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)’s led regime.

‘False hope’

The Nigerian government had on June 4, 2021, suspended Twitter barely two days after the social media platform deleted a tweet by the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

In that tweet, the President had threatened to deal with those causing trouble in the country using “the language they understand,” referencing the experience of the 1967-1970 civil war where millions of Nigerians got killed.

The Nigerian authorities have since set plans to force social media platforms to register in Nigeria and comply with local regulations before they are licensed to operate.

Some media houses also had to deactivate and suspend their Twitter accounts.

The ban also followed threats by the Federal Government to shut down media houses over interviews perceived to be against President Buhari and his regime.

However, many Nigerians have bypassed the Twitter suspension by using a Virtual Private Network.

Twitter played a key role for activists in Nigeria, with the hashtags #BringBackOurGirls after Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls in 2014, and #EndSARS during anti-police brutality protests last year.

Nigeria had said the ban would end when Twitter submitted to local licensing, registration and conditions for working in the country.

On August 11, 2021, the Presidency through the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said it was close to an agreement with Twitter and would soon lift the ban.

But the “days” turned into “months” when the information minister in another interview with Reuters said the ban will be lifted before the “end of the year” – 2021.

When he spoke after the meeting of the Federal Executive Council, the minister had said, “I want to say that the end for an amicable solution is very much in sight.

“We quite appreciate the anxiety of Nigerians, I just want to assure you that we have made tremendous progress.”

End Twitter suspension in Nigeria – Amnesty

Amnesty International described the suspension as “unlawful”, saying that Nigerians’ voices matter.

The organisation made this known in a statement to mark 100 days of suspending Twitter in Nigeria.

Part of the statement read, “These actions are clear violations of the right to freedom of expression, access to information, and freedom of the press.

“These actions are the latest symptoms of the alarming backsliding on human rights across Nigeria. Social media platforms have helped Nigerians get information, communicate, hold useful dialogues and conversations, and demand accountability from the Nigerian authorities, particularly during the #EndSARS protests last year.

“When in the streets, peaceful protesters are met with violent reprisal from the Nigerian authorities, and now their online voices are being silenced as well.

“Legislative bills popularly known as the ‘Hate Speech Bill’ and ‘The Social Media Bill’ both of which provide severe punitive sanctions such as the death penalty in some cases for social media users convicted of “crimes” provided under them are also signs of the regression in the rights to freedom of expression, access to information and freedom of the press.

“It’s time to end the unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria and let President Buhari know that Nigerians’ voices matter.”

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