From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja
Thousands of Twitter users in Nigeria are currently gnashing their teeth following the total enforcement of the ban of the micro-blogging app by telecom companies as directed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on Friday.
The Minister of Information, Mr Lai Mohammed, had on Friday announced the federal government’s plans to indefinitely suspend Twitter after it deleted two tweets of President Muhammadu Buhari for violating its Community Standards.
Barely a few hours after the Minister announced the planned suspension, it immediately backed it with a directive to the NCC, who in turn ordered that telcos comply immediately.
The development has continued to elicit reactions across Nigeria and abroad, with many describing the move as draconian and undemocratic.
Analysts who weighed in on the matter said there was no justification for the ban, especially since it has become a source of livelihood for thousands of Nigerians and a reliable news dissemination platform.
Commenting on the development, a seasoned lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Mike Ozhekome, condemned the ban, saying that Twitter was one of the few places where Nigerians could freely express their grievances.
‘Well, I am not surprised that the Federal Government has suspended Twitter operations in Nigeria. Are you? I have always said that this Government has a very thin skin for criticism. It is a government that cannot take punches, but delights in always giving punches to adversaries, real or imaginary,’ the lawyer said.
‘The government knows that Nigerians now express their resentment and protest through Twitter, by telling the whole world how Nigeria has been turned into a corruption haven, and a sprawling field of butchery, extra-judicial executions and slaughtering.
‘Those in government do not want the world to hear about their atrocities. So, they just gleefully tell the world that they have suspended Twitter and that they would soon license other OTT and social media operations.’
Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde urged the federal government to reverse the ban, saying the microblogging and social networking platform has become a source of livelihood for many Nigerians.
Former Vice President of Nigeria Atiku Abubakar, who tweeted a few minutes after the suspension was announced on Friday, expressed shock at the development, adding: ‘Hopefully, this won’t be my last tweet.’
Many young Nigerians use Twitter to market their products, advertise their skills and source information. More so, Ministries, Departments and Agencies have lately deepened the use of Twitter to disseminate information, having found it effective and cost-saving.
Many subscribers who commented on the government’s decision condemned the Presidency for being too high-handed, comparing President Buhari to former US President Trump who was banned from all social media platforms and yet did not indefinitely suspend the big tech companies.
Samuel Ola said: ‘The fact they really did this is worrisome. Now it is Twitter. Only God knows what next if we don’t stand strongly against this. I am an influencer on Twitter and I make my money from promoting products and brands on the platform. This is like taking away my source of income because I already have a huge following and this could affect that.’
Some have, however, suggested a number of ways Twitter users can bypass the restriction.
‘If your Twitter account is blocked in Nigeria, go to Google Playstore and download “Windscribe VPN”. Set your location to another country. You will be accessing your Twitter account seamlessly. We get sense pass them,’ said user @Tundegold.
Twitter in its latest update has promised to restore access to the microblogging app for Nigerians.
‘We are deeply concerned by the blocking of Twitter in Nigeria. Access to the free #openinInternet is an essential human right in modern society. We will work to restore access for all those in Nigeria who rely on Twitter to communicate and connect with the world,’ it said.