Social media users in Nigeria on Friday swiftly inundated Twitter to express their shock and outrage after the government announced the indefinite suspension of the tech giant’s operations in the country.
The authorities’ move came two days after Twitter had temporarily suspended the account of President Muhammadu Buhari for violating the social media company’s “abusive” behaviour policy. Buhari’s account was put on hold for 12 hours after he threatened punishment for regional secessionists blamed for attacks on government buildings.
In a vague statement on Twitter, which did not clarify when the move would come into force, the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture said the social media platform was being used for activities “capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence”.
Responding below the ministry’s post, many users pointed out the irony of announcing such a move on Twitter itself.
Using @twitter to announced the suspension of its operation in Nigeria on its platform. Are you alright???
— Ayo Kingdove👤🕊🕊🕊 (@MeduolaS) June 4, 2021
Using Twitter to announce suspension of Twitter is folly.
— Akintunde Babatunde (@olorunwababs) June 4, 2021
‘Fisayo Soyombo, freelance investigative journalist and ex-editor of TheCable, labelled the government’s decision “shameful”, while human rights lawyer Clement Nwankwo said the “unconstitutional” move should be “immediately reversed”.
The most shameful thing about the ban of Twitter in Nigeria is not even that it was announced.
It's the realisation that this government can't see the divisiveness and irresponsibility of that Buhari tweet, and the barefacedness with which it is going about it.
— 'Fisayo Soyombo (@fisayosoyombo) June 4, 2021
Nigerian government suspension of @Twitter a medium of free expression and communication is bizarre and unconstitutional and should be immediately reversed. The suspension exposes Nigeria to national and international ridicule and is unsustainable
— Clement Nwankwo (@ClementNwankwo) June 4, 2021
‘Gbenga Sesan, executive director of Paradigm Initiative, a pan-African social enterprise working on digital inclusion and digital rights, said the move “will only end in disgrace” and urged users to download a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to retain access.
SMH. This will only end in disgrace, and I'm sure the minister himself knows that but good luck. https://t.co/OAOHkRh7sH
— 'Gbénga Ṣẹ̀san (@gbengasesan) June 4, 2021
Unsurprisingly, there was no dearth of jokes, either.
Blogger and political commentator Japheth Omojuwa dubbed the “disaster” as coming from the “Federal Ministry of Emotional & Irrational Reactions”.
Federal Ministry of Emotional & Irrational Reactions.
— JJ. Omojuwa (@Omojuwa) June 4, 2021
Ghana how far una side…. any vacancy?
— DANIEL OBASI (@iamdanielobasi) June 4, 2021
Poor Buhari, Twitter hurt his feelings, so he must now apply Decree 4 of 1984 to them.
— Onye Nkuzi (@cchukudebelu) June 4, 2021
Maybe now that Fg has banned Twitter in Nigeria, i can finally get off my phone, focus on school and get a job. 😪 pic.twitter.com/lgBjCC8WKX
— ᴅ3ᴊɪ xᴏ™🇬🇭💦🌍 (@dejiimole) June 4, 2021
Meanwhile, Amnesty International’s Nigeria branch condemned the move and called on authorities to “immediately reverse the unlawful suspension and other plans to gag the media, repress the civic space, and undermine Nigerians’ human rights”.
Amnesty International condemns the Nigerian government’s suspension of Twitter @Twitter in #Nigeria🇳🇬 — a social media widely used by Nigerians to exercise their human rights, including their rights to freedom of expression and access to information. #TwitterBan
— Amnesty International Nigeria (@AmnestyNigeria) June 4, 2021
Some users cited last year’s popular protests against police brutality, which saw young people mobilising through social media under the #EndSARS hashtag, as the reason behind the move.
This has nothing to do with a recently deleted tweet but everything to do with getting back at Twitter for giving young Nigerians a voice against police brutality during the EndSARS movement!
— Fola Aina (@folanski) June 4, 2021
Fun thing is that the government really can’t ban Twitter. Telcos need Twitter traffic. Even government needs Twitter for propaganda.
It’s like when banks blocked #EndSARS accounts. They’ll lose in court. But harm already done.
— Editi Effiòng (@EditiEffiong) June 4, 2021
The real news is not the government suspension of Twitter’s operations in Nigeria, it’s that the government wants to start LICENSING SOCIAL MEDIA & OTT OPERATIONS IN NIGERIA. The regulation of social media is the real aim of all of this. It’s right there in the Ministry’s tweet.
— Tola (@adetolaov) June 4, 2021
Below is an official Nigerian govt account using twitter to announce that it’s suspending twitter in the country.
Ridiculousness aside, on its face, this is ostensibly another move to suppress speech in the country. https://t.co/FIbqbPfpCq
— Kovie Biakolo (@koviebiakolo) June 4, 2021
The last move of a failing Government is always to try to silence everyone who points out that they are failing.
— Mark Essien (@markessien) June 4, 2021
This isn’t even something to laugh about. This is not a joke. We are in a full dictatorship. The Nigerian government has put a gag rule on the press and now they want to control social media. Our voice is the only thing we have and we cannot afford to lose it. This is tyranny.
— ULOMA (@ulxma) June 4, 2021