The ban on Twitter by the Muhammadu Buhari administration is a clampdown on freedom of expression and further shrinks Nigeria’s civic space, activists and opposition political parties have said.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Nigerian government announced on Friday that it was suspending the activities of the social media giant in Nigeria. The announcement followed the deletion of President Muhammadu Buhari’s controversial post on Twitter by the social media giant, used by millions of Nigerians.
“Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will
treat them in the language they understand,” the president had posted on Twitter.
In reaction to the deletion of the president’s tweet, the Nigerian government had accused Twitter of pursuing a sinister agenda in Nigeria. The government on Friday announced the ban on the social media network.
By Saturday morning, many Nigerians could no longer access Twitter except through a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
Reacting to the ban, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka said he was not surprised by the president’s action which is “unbecoming of a democratically elected president.”
“Heard the news of Buhari’s ban on Twitter an hour or so after sending off TO SHOCK AND AWE to the print media. Kindly add my total lack of surprise at this petulant gesture, unbecoming of a democratically elected president.
“If Buhari has a problem with Twitter, he is advised to sort it out between them personally, the way Donald Trump did, not rope in the right to free expression of the Nigerian citizen as collateral damage.
“In any case, this is a technical problem Nigerians should be able to work their way around. The field of free expression remains wide open, free of any dictatorial spasms!” Mr Soyinka, a former supporter of the president, wrote in a short statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES.
In its reaction, Amnesty International condemned the ban, describing it as “unlawful.”
“Amnesty International condemns the Nigerian government’s suspension of Twitter in Nigeria — a social media platform widely used by Nigerians to exercise their human rights including their rights to freedom of expression and access to information. We call on the Nigerian authorities to immediately reverse the unlawful suspension and other plans to gag the media, repress civic space, and undermine Nigerians’ human rights.
“This action is clearly inconsistent and incompatible with Nigeria’s international obligations including under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” the international organisation wrote in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES.
In its reaction, the Civil Society Consortium on Civic Space said it “received with consternation the news of decision of the regime of Major-General Muhammadu Buhari to suspend Twitter in Nigeria.”
“Over the years, Twitter has become one of the drivers of freedom of expression, speech and Assembly not just in Nigeria but all over the world. It is shameful that in its desperate bid and determination to destroy the largest democracy in Africa, the Federal Government of Nigeria is exploring undemocratic means to not just gag its citizens but to subdue them.”
The group said the ban on Twitter was a continuation of the clampdown on civic space by the Buhari administration.
“The Buhari-led regime has consistently demonstrated its lack of temperament and intellectual capacity to govern a modern democracy where dissenting voices matter. Leadership attracts criticism, criticism is the bedrock of modern democracy and if the president lacks the temperament to accept criticism from dissenting voices, then he has no right being a democratically elected president. He should either resign or let the citizens know that he has staged a coup against his own democratically elected government by announcing himself as a military junta, that way we can deal with the administration as such.
“The Federal Government led by President Buhari cannot continue to pick and choose which part of the constitution he wants to obey when he indeed swore to uphold the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The suspension of Twitter is not just an illegality, it is an attack on free speech, it is an attack on the rights of every citizen of Nigeria that uses the platform for either business or any form of expression. According to Statista, 61.4% of about 28million social media users in Nigeria in 2020 use it for Business, Communication, Entertainment, Professional Development among others. This ban on twitter and the proposed regulation of OTT will not help businesses thrive in an already battered economy with no responsive leadership.
“We therefore call on General Muhammadu Buhari’s regime to immediately reverse the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria. In the interim, the Consortium is considering its options in response to the decision and consulting with other interested civic partners and entities in Nigeria in order to determine our next steps,” the group, a coalition of prominent civil society organisations in Nigeria, wrote in its statement.
Political Parties too
Two opposition parties have also condemned the federal government’s action.
The PDP, Nigeria’s main opposition party, said the “suspension of twitter, is a vexatious, condemnable and barbaric move to muzzle Nigerians, particularly the youths, ostensibly to prevent them from holding the overtly corrupt, vindictive and divisive Buhari administration accountable for its atrocities, including human right violations, patronizing of terrorists and outright suppressive acts against innocent Nigerians.”
Another opposition party, AAC, said the Nigerian government’s action is an attack on press freedom.
“What is more embarrassing in the events that have played out in recent times is that while governments of other countries are working to position better on the global ranking of press freedom, the Buhari regime is seeking to break its own poor record of press and media rights violations,” the party’s spokesperson, Femi Adeyeye stated.
The PDP and the AAC, in their separate statements, urged Nigerians to resist the suspension.
“It is also on record that President Buhari would not be the first President in the world whose tweet would be deleted.
“When it happened to former US President Donald Trump, he was not known to have deployed any act of coercion against Twitter,” the PDP said in its statement by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbodiyan.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...