The Federal Government on Friday said it has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced the suspension in a statement issued by his office in Abuja.
The statement, signed by Ministry spokesperson, Segun Adeyemi, cited the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.
According to the statement, 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.
It is not yet clear how the suspension will work but the Twitter website was still accessible from Lagos as of Friday afternoon.
‘Civil War’ Tweet
The suspension comes days after Twitter deleted a tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari’s official account.
The tweet had referenced the Nigerian civil war as the President threated to treat Nigerians “misbehaving” in “the language they understand”.
It sparked reactions from many Nigerians who interpreted the statement as a threat to commit human rights violations.
Former presidential candidate Kingsley Moghalu said Buhari’s threat “is not the kind of word he should say as the president.”
Buhari made the threat after receiving security reports from the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on the series of recent attacks on INEC facilities nationwide.
“Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigeria Civil War,” the tweet said.
“Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”
A video of Buhari making the remark was also deleted by Twitter from the official Presidency account on Thursday.
“This Tweet is no longer available because it violated the Twitter Rules. Learn more,” Twitter said.
Twitter activities ‘suspicious’
Reacting to the tweet deletion, Minister Mohammed had held a press conference on Wednesday at the State House in Abuja.
He accused Twitter of being impartial in its curation and said the social media firm’s activities were suspicious.
“We have a country to rule and we will do so to the best of our ability. Twitter’s mission in Nigeria is very suspect, they have an agenda,” he said.
“The mission of Twitter in Nigeria is very suspicious. Has Twitter deleted the violent tweets that Nnamdi Kanu has been sending? Has it? The same Twitter during the ENDSARS protests that were funding ENDSARS protesters, it was the first to close the account of the former president of the US, Trump.
“And you see when people were burning police stations and killing policemen in Nigeria during ENDSARS, for Twitter, it was about the right to protest. But when a similar thing happened on the Capitol, it became insurrection.”
He said Twitter had displayed bias during the #EndSARS protest which led to the looting and destruction of government and private property.
The minister asked what rule President Buhari had violated to warrant his tweet to be deleted.
“Twitter may have its own rules, it’s not the universal rule,” he said. “If Mr. President, anywhere in the world feels very bad and concerned about a situation, he is free to express such views. Now, we should stop comparing apples with oranges.
“If an organisation is proscribed, it is different from any other which is not proscribed. Two, any organisation that gives directives to its members, to attack police stations, to kill policemen, to attack correctional centers, to kill warders, and you are now saying that Mr. President does not have the right to express his dismay and anger about that?
“We are the ones guilty of double standards. I don’t see anywhere in the world where an organisation, a person will stay somewhere outside Nigeria and will direct his members to attack the symbols of authority, the police, the military, especially when that organisation has been proscribed. By whatever name, you can’t justify giving orders to kill policemen or to kill anybody you do not agree with.”