The Twitter ban in Nigeria caused by the social media giant’s deleting of a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari, has sparked a wave of online and real world reactions across the country and beyond, the day after.
Twitter’s decision to delete President’s Buhari tweet that allegedly threatened secessionist group in the country, was reciprocated by the government, which placed an indefinite suspension on the operation of the social media service.
The Federal Government has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Information and Culture Minister announced in a statement on Twitter. saying that “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence” informed the government decision to ban Twitter.
The Government “has also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria”, the Minister says.
Apart from the broadcast regulator, the nation’s telecoms regulator also ordered mobile network operators (MNOs) to deny Nigeria’s phone users access to Twitter.
MNOs including MTN Nigeria, Glo Mobile, Airtel and 9mobile that count over 190 million active phone lines say they have complied with the government’s order to ban the country’s mobile millions from accessing Twitter. The biggest operators spoke through their industry pressure group, the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON).
Engineer Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman of ALTON who confirmed thee development says that that its “members have received formal instructions from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the industry regulator to suspend access to Twitter.”
According to him, “ALTON has conducted a robust assessment of the directive in accordance with internationally accepted principles. Based on national interest provisions in the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003, and within the licence terms under which the industry operates; our members have acted in compliance with the directives of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) the industry regulator.”
As of Q1 this year, Nigeria’s telecoms industry has grossed 192,413,613 active phone connections spread across the nations’ geographically dispersed locations with mobile network operators accounting for the lion share of 192,081,282 active phones.
With the compliance by the telcos, mobile phone users have been barred from accessing Twitter through their regular network connections.
ALTON’s Adebayo says “we will continue to engage all the relevant authorities and stakeholders and will act as may be further directed by the NCC. We remain committed to supporting the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and upholding the rights of citizens. As an industry, we endorse the position of the United Nations that the rights held by people offline must also be protected online. This includes respecting and protecting the rights of all people to communicate, to share information freely and responsibly, and to enjoy privacy and security regarding their data and their use of digital communications.”
Twitter ban in Nigeria ‘is threat to human rights’
Meanwhile, Paradigm Initiative has today condemned Nigeria’s Twitter ban as “a brazen abuse of fundamental human rights” alleging that the action aim to insulate government from criticism by Nigerians, especially the youth population.
“It is evident that shutting down Twitter is illegal and illegitimate policies such as this are unacceptable”, the NGO says.
“Many Nigerians read the announcement of the ban on Twitter as a reflection of the importance of the platform and other digital (social media) platforms to Nigerians in accessing information and disseminating the same”, the NGO says in a statement made available to Technology Times.
According to Paradigm Initiative, the Nigerian government’s ban on Twitter “is at its core, an abuse of the rights of Nigerians not just to freedom of expression, but many other rights guaranteed in the Nigerian 1999 Constitution (as amended), the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“This suspension, which is a reaction of the Nigerian government to the company’s enforcement of its platform rules, is aimed at insulating the government from criticism, especially by Nigeria’s youth who are over 70% of the country’s population.”
According to the NGO, “It must be noted that Nigeria’s President has notably been insulated from every form of public accountability. He is perhaps the only president since the country’s return to democracy in 1999 who never grants live interviews or holds media chats. This move is therefore aimed at making him unaccountable to the people of Nigeria who constantly take to social media platforms to share their views on the actions and policies of the government.”
Paradigm Initiative says that a 2016 United Nations resolution “affirms that the rights that citizens have offline must apply online. Coincidentally, this resolution was co-sponsored by Nigeria with others.
“We urge the Nigerian authorities to respect and enforce citizens’ fundamental rights as provided for by the Nigerian constitution and International human rights treaties that Nigeria is a party to.”
The NGO says it will contact the Ministry of Information and Culture “to get exact details of this announcement, and the legal framework that supports such undemocratic pronouncement.”
Meanwhile the NGO is asking Twitter users and other social media platforms in Nigeria “to download virtual private networks (VPNs) to enable them continue to use the platforms for their economic survival and social and political engagements while we all push back on this draconian order by the Nigerian government.”
Apart from calling on Twitter and other social media users in Nigeria to use VPN to circumvent banned websites, the NGO has also pointed an online advisory explaining guidelines for accessing social media platforms and websites in the country.
Meanwhile, the Twitter ban in Nigeria has sparked a new rush for bypass technology like virtual private network (VPN) services that let local users mask their online identities and access blocked services including the microblogging site.“We advise all users of Twitter and other social media platforms in Nigeria to download virtual private networks (VPNs) to enable them continue to use the platforms for their economic survival and social and political engagements while we all push back on this draconian order by the Nigerian government”, Paradigm Initiative says in a statement advising users on methods to avoid government internet shutdowns.