By Lukas Nwachukwu
The Nigerian government suspends indefinitely the operations of the micro blogging site Twitter in Nigeria on 4th June, 2021. In an announcement made public by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, stating “safety concerns”. This ban is coming few days after twitter deleted a post made by President Muhammadu Buhari, which violated “abusive behavior” policy of Twitter, and further suspended his account for 12 hours.
The Twitter ban is coming amid public debate on continuous attempt by the government to censor social media. It could be recalled that Anti-Social Media Bill was introduced by the 9th National Assembly in November 2019 to criminalize the use of the social media in peddling false or malicious information. It was seen by many as a stealthy move to restrict the civic space and was greeted by vigorous pushback by the masses and a robust response by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the country.
The Twitter ban is a surreptitious method used by the government to suppress the masses, it is an attack on democratic tenet that provides for freedom of expression and an attack on human rights and independent media. By this decision, this government is treading a dangerous path with unimaginable consequences. This action undermines the foundational principles of democratic governance and the masses’ right to freedom of expression.
Social media gives voice to voiceless Nigerians, democratizing opinions and criticisms about how government should be run, giving marginalized groups a voice to talk about their plights, which obviously the government is not comfortable with. The attempt to gag the masses and muzzle free expression has potentially devastating implication for democracy and the civic space. With a staggering 33% unemployment rate in the country, many young people eke a living from social media platforms like twitter, as influencers, ad and promotion marketers etc. This ban is a deliberate and malicious decision to makes it difficult for Nigerians, both young and old to empower themselves through leveraging on the economic benefits of a platform like Twitter.
We strongly condemn the Twitter ban and the attempt by the Muhammadu Buhari-led government to control social media and muzzle Nigerians from freely expressing their opinions. Therefore, the government should reverse this outrageous and dictatorial decision immediately, to restore the vibrant and diverse space Twitter provides. Anything short of this, will further define this government as a repressive and dictatorial regime with the sole purpose to make life difficult for Nigerians.