With millions of users, Twitter is one of the most used social media platforms in the world. Due to its multi-media support and followership orderliness, it’s the go-to app for many for micro blogging and news sharing. Since the advent of Twitter in Nigeria, you can freely use the platform until June 2021.
On the 4th of June 2021, the Nigerian government led by Muhammadu Buhari made an announcement that the social media platform will be banned in the country. By 12 am on the 5th of June, this was effected as Nigerians could no longer access Twitter via their local IPs.
All major telcos including MTN, Airtel, Glo, and 9Mobile restricted access to Twitter. In this article, I’ll be explaining all you should know about this ban.
Why was Twitter banned in Nigeria?
Although Nigerian politicians have called for social media regulation in the past, there was a specific reason for the recent ban. The government placed a ban on Twitter because the social media platform deleted a tweet from the President’s account.
On the 1st of June, President Muhammadu Buhari released a series of tweets addressing the state of insecurity in most parts of Nigeria. The last tweet was seemingly directed to IPOB members as the President said the government will deal with them in a language they’ll understand while referencing the civil war.
The Nigerian civil war (also called Biafra war) happened from 1967 to 1970. It was a war between the eastern Igbo people of Nigeria who needed an independent country against northern Nigeria who had the government. The south and West took varying sides in the war.
Biafra lost the war amidst the loss of millions of lives and property. The aftermath wasn’t friendly at all. Therefore, the statement from Muhammadu Buhari’s account threatening to treat them in a civil-war like manner was considered hostile by many Nigerians.
This led to the trending hashtag #IAmIgboToo as other tribes took sides with the threatened. Many Nigerians reported the tweet from the President as violating and Twitter ended up deleting the tweet. A similar post was made on Facebook which Facebook admins deleted as well.
The minister of information in a conference questioned Twitter’s stance in Nigeria citing that the social media platform is used for activities capable of undermining the country’s corporate existence. Thus, Twitter was banned.
What does the ban mean?
This ban on Twitter simply means that Nigerians can no longer make use of Twitter. As a Nigerian, you’ll normally browse with a Nigerian IP. This IP is issued by the network provider you use – MTN, Airtel, 9Mobile, Glo, Spectranet, etc. All these telcos need to do is to blacklist Twitter.com which is as easy as ABC.
However, this didn’t have the effect the government thought as seconds after Twitter was shutdown, Nigerians were on Twitter complaining about the ban. The internet is global and the most Nigerian telcos can do is to restrict Twitter on their IPs. Not only telcos can provide IP addresses. There are so many other IP providers among which VPNs are the most popular.
With this, a lot of Nigerians have downloaded VPNs and switched their IP address to a foreign one. Twitter is still inaccessible in Nigeria such that the Nigerian trends table will be blank. Nigerians are tweeting with foreign IPs including USA, UK, and other European IPs. Therefore, they are classified as residents of these countries on Twitter.
This is why what would be Nigerian trends are now trending in the USA, UK, and even globally. Before the ban, some Nigerians already used VPNs but usage has skyrocketed. Reports show that Google Search for VPN in Nigeria multiplied x14 in less than a day.
Will the ban be lifted?
The question many Nigerians are asking is if the ban is permanent. Well, there’s no way to know for sure but it’s unlikely. The statement from the Nigerian government is that the social media platform is banned indefinitely. Many people have called for the reversal of the ban.
The ban could possibly be lifted after a while. Before it was effected, the First Lady Aisha Buhari made a tweet about deactivating her Twitter account. In the tweet she said “I will be deactivating my twitter account for now. Long live Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
Deactivating for now implies that it’s not a permanent stance. Among all governors and notable political figures in Nigeria, only governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State has come out to oppose the ban by the government.
The director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho also opposed the ban in a statement “This action is clearly inconsistent and incompatible with Nigeria’s international obligations. We are calling on the Nigerian authorities to immediately reverse the unlawful suspension and other plans to gag the media, repress civic space, and undermine Nigerians’ human rights.”
Whether the ban is lifted or not, the Nigerian government is planning on regulating social media and OTT media platforms. In the tweet announcing the ban, the FMIC reported that “The Minister said the Federal Government has also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria.”
Twitter has promised to do all that they can to ensure that access to Twitter is restored in Nigeria. This was expressed in a tweet by Twitter Public Policy “We are deeply concerned by the blocking of Twitter in Nigeria. Access to the free and #OpenInternet is an essential human right in modern society. We will work to restore access for all those in Nigeria who rely on Twitter to communicate and connect with the world. #KeepitOn”