Twitter ban: Confusion as govt agencies revert to old ways of information dissemination

Twitter ban: Confusion as govt agencies revert to old ways of information dissemination

The Nigerian government’s suspension of the operation of micro-blogging company, Twitter, in Nigeria, might have left both in a catch-22 situation as

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The Nigerian government’s suspension of the operation of micro-blogging company, Twitter, in Nigeria, might have left both in a catch-22 situation as the duo have lost millions of followers that they had built for more than half a decade.

For Twitter the saga has cost it billions of cash, while Nigerians, in both private and public sectors have lost their means of instant communication.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had last week announced the suspension of Twitter after the firm deleted some aspects of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet, which the company found to be in breach of its rules.

Following searing attacks of the suspension by social activists, who said it was an abuse of Nigerians’ freedom of expression as guaranteed by Section 39 (1) of the Constitution as altered, Muhammed added an extra reason for the act, saying the temporary prohibition of the internet platform was a response to the firm’s persistent violation of the nation’s national security interest.

The suspension order had attracted a directive from the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), asking all Telcos and broadcasting media to deactivate their Twitter handles and block access to the internet facility.

Many Nigerians, have, however, circumvented the federal government’s blockage of the micro-blogging facility, resorting to the virtual private network (VPN) to connect Twitter.

Although checks showed that Buhari, his deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), and many government agencies, including the armed forces, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), have suspended tweeting, some governors including Malam Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) and Mr. Seyi Makinde (Oyo) have continued to tweet in defiance of the federal government’s directive.

A day after Mohammed announced the suspension of Twitter’s operations in Nigeria, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, had warned that violators of the ban would be prosecuted.

But senior lawyers have questioned the legality of Malami’s order, saying that it is not grounded in law, adding that Nigerians could not be prosecuted for offences not specified by law.

To calm the global outrage that the suspension of Twitter has generated, the federal government on Monday met with ambassadors of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, the European Union and Ireland in Nigeria and sought their understanding on its suspension of Twitter’s operations in Nigeria.

But a directive on Monday by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) had directed road and television stations in the country to de-install their Twitter accounts. However checks show that Twitter accounts belonging to government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are also being retained.

Some of the accounts being retained belong to the Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Geoffrey Onyema; Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

Others include the Nigerian Police, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the Super Eagles, the official Twitter account of Nigerian football team; and the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), among many others.

While most of these accounts are not active, the same cannot be said of their aides who have bypassed the networks to tweet with their Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Also active are Twitter accounts of former Senators Shehu Sani and Dino Melaye, as well as el-Rufai who tweeted the link of a story on “Nigeria: African country teaches US lesson in how to handle Big Tech tyranny — RT Op-ed.”

While Akeredolu’s last tweet, on the attack on Igangan community in Oyo State was at 7.11 pm on Sunday, Makinde, at 9.45 am, on Sunday, tweeted to urge for calm over the attack on Igangan.

Also, most churches are still active on Twitter with both Deeper Life Bible Church and Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), justifying their accounts being active on the grounds that they need to reach congregants in other countries.

The RCCG, in a clarification, said: “The Redeemed Christian Church of God is domiciled in more than 170 nations & territories. The tweets here are in accordance with Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Article 19 of the UDHR said: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Also, the Deeper Life General Overseer, Pastor Williams Kumuyi said: “In view of the Twitter ban in Nigeria, please note that the content shared on this handle is targeted at a global audience in more than five continents and over 100 nations and we share the content from any of these locations.”

The federal government on Monday sought the understanding of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, the European Union and Ireland over its suspension of Twitter’s operations in Nigeria.

It, however, gave conditions to lift the suspension.

Also on Monday, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, called for a speedy resolution of the dispute.