The United Nations (UN), through its Human Rights office, and the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Samantha Power, have condemned the Nigerian government’s ban on the use of Twitter in the country.
Their reactions came as part of growing local and international condemnations that have greeted the Twitter ban since it was announced by the Nigerian government on Friday.
As well as being widely criticised as an attack on free press and citizens’ right to freedom of expression, the ban has been condemned as an overreaction that poses huge risks to Nigeria’s e-commerce.
Both the UN office and Ms Power criticised the suspension of the microblogging site by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration in separate tweets.
The human rights of the UN said the suspension of Twitter which it noted followed the social media giant’s removal of a controversial tweet by President Buhari would “severely restrict the right to freedom of expression.”
“🇳🇬 #Nigeria: We are concerned by Nigeria’s #TwitterBan which followed a decision by Twitter to remove a Presidential tweet. Sweeping bans that intentionally prevent or disrupt access to, or dissemination of, information online severely restrict the right to freedom of expression,” the tweet posted on Tuesday read.
USAID boss speaks
Ms Power, the head of the U.S. donor agency that ranks among Nigeria’s top development partners, joined the U.S. Mission in Nigeria to condemn the ban on Twitter in a tweet early Wednesday.
Her tweet, quoting an earlier statement by the U.S. Mission in Nigeria in criticising the ban on Twitter, amplified what has come to be seen as the U.S government’s displeasure about the development.
“#Twitterban undermines Nigerians’ ability to exercise this fundamental freedom and sends a poor message to its citizens, investors and businesses,” the U.S. Nigerian mission had said in its statement.
The U.S embassy, shortly after issuing the statement on June 5, also joined the European Union’s delegation to Nigeria, as well as the diplomatic missions of the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, and Canada in issuing a joint statement to condemn the ban.
In her tweet which also included the hashtag #KeepitOn created by Twitter to fight back Nigerian government’s ban, described the suspension as a “state-sanctioned denial of free speech” in a country with nearly 40million Twitter users and known to be Africa’s largest tech hub.
“There are nearly 40 M Twitter users in #Nigeria, and the country is home to Africa’s largest tech hub. This suspension is nothing more than state-sanctioned denial of free speech and should be reversed immediately. #KeepitOn,” her tweet read.
The USAID led by Ms Power partners with Nigerian in helping the country to prevent and mitigate conflict, strengthen government services and institutions, and improve Nigerians’ livelihoods.
Nigeria’s information minister, Lai Mohammed, announced the Twitter ban on Friday, two days after a controversial tweet by President Buhari was taken down by Twitter.
Twitter said the post, seen by many as a threat of violence against Igbo people in the South-east, violated its rules.
But Nigeria’s information minister said the ban on Twitter was to prevent further use of the social media platform in a manner that threatens Nigeria’s corporate existence.
The Nigerian government ordered network providers to block access to Twitter from Nigeria.
Since the ban, however, many Nigerians remain active on Twitter using applications that provide alternative platforms to log into the microblogging site.
In reaction to the development, the government, through the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, threatened to prosecute Nigerians bypassing the ban.
Mr Malami himself on Tuesday fell foul of the directive when his Facebook post announcing his deactivation of his Twitter account exposed him as having logged on to the microblogging site through a backdoor channel.
The minister’s violation came on the same day a top civil society group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, and over 170 others sued the Nigerian government at the ECOWAS Court of Justice over the “illegal” Twitter ban.
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