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  Reacting to Twitter deleting the president’s statement from the platform on Friday, the minister said in a statement that the Buhari government has suspended the activities of Twitter in the country.
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The statement by the presidency reads further: The Minister said
‘the Federal Government has also directed the National Broadcasting Commission to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria.’
Ultimately, this implies that even messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, and so on are not left out of the unlawful regulation Nigeria’s information minister has been knocking on Twitter for a while for supporting ‘insurrection’ in Nigeria. This was the same position the minister took in October 2020 during the #EndSARS protests which ended with the massacre of protesting youths by government security agencies. Lai Mohammed’s statement that the “platform is capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.” is quite outrageous. If the Minister does not consider the president’s statement where he said ‘Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,’ to be capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence, then nothing else can. The PDP minority caucus in the House of Representatives has already released a statement criticising the ban as a means of suppressing the citizenry;
“It further shows the All Progressives Congress (APC) led administration as one that is unwilling to listen to Nigerians but ready to use any means to suppress and subjugate its citizens.”
Prior to the Twitter ban, the Buhari regime had sought time and again for stiffer penalties for persons who ‘misuse’ social media.
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Twitter, historically, has been a major thorn in the flesh of repressive government regimes because of its characteristics of easily aggregating information. Twitter has shown itself to be way ahead of Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and so on when it comes to mobilisation, debates and consensus forming. Back in 2010, the Arab Spring took place where a number of country’s citizens moved to change their repressive government regimes just by mobilising via Twitter. Amidst all of these, the Senate deliberation ongoing on a Bill (Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill 2019 commonly known as the anti-social media bill), aiming to muzzle free speech appears to have stalled since 2019 as a multitude of Nigerians criticised its passage as it climbs through the floor readings. Little wonder whether the sponsors and supporters of the anti-social media bill will now be emboldened or discouraged to continue the process of passing the bill which could become law in the Senate. For the lawmakers and other government actors championing the anti-social media bill, their position is now made more difficult as they will be more mindful of the wrath of powerful foreign countries as well as angered Nigerians if they keep pushing the passing of the bill. They will also be pressured even more now by the executive arm of government to legalise the initial illegality of the Twitter ban by ramming the censure bill through the Senate. However, their job is not that difficult as they can simply insist on carrying out the mandate and wishes of the majority who elected them into office rather than trying to be politically correct. Bottom line: One way or another, the Nigerian masses have won another round of spat with a leadership that has been so restrictive of free speech and criticism aiming to get them to buckle up in service of the fatherland which they swore an oath of office to. The ban on Twitter has been defied, luckily, this time around with technological tools. What shall Nigerians do then when the technological tools are not there to save them or provide alternatives? Featured Image Source: Tech Crunch
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This article was first published on 7th June 2021


Macaddy is mostly a farmer in the day who also dabbles into technology at night, in search of other cutting edge intersections. He's on Twitter @i_fix_you

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