Nigeria’s federal government has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of social networking service Twitter.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced the suspension in a statement issued in Abuja on Friday, citing the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.
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.
The federal government had on Wednesday accused the social media giant of double standards in its treatment of issues affecting Nigeria.
It warned that it would not allow the microblogging site to dictate to President Muhammadu Buhari his views on national issues.
The accusation followed the decision of Twitter to delete a controversial post by Buhari on the Nigerian civil war.
The president, in the post on Tuesday, had warned against insurrection, saying that those fomenting trouble in the South-east are in for a rude shock.
Buhari, in a series of tweets on Tuesday via his verified Twitter handle @mbuhari had said: “Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian civil war. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”
Buhari’s statement, which was also tweeted, sparked outrage on social media with some Nigerians reporting it to Twitter.
However, some said the president sounded firm in his warning against perpetrators of violence in the South-east.
But on Wednesday, Twitter pulled down the tweet for violating its community standards.
Twitter, in a comment, said: “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules.”
The federal government, however, kicked against the decision with the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, wondering why Twitter would object to a submission by the president on national issues but would ignore provocative postings by the leader of the proscribed Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu on its site.
The minister told journalist at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the State House, Abuja that Twitter’s mission in Nigeria is suspect.
He wondered if Twitter has ever deleted offensive tweets by Kanu.
He said: “The mission of Twitter in Nigeria is very suspect. Has Twitter deleted the violent tweets that Nnamdi Kanu has been sending? Has it? The same Twitter during the ENDSARS protests promoted tweets trying to raise funds for the ENDSARS protesters. It was the first to close the account of former President of US, Donald 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 at the Capitol, it became insurrection. You see, we are not going to be fooled by anybody.
“We have a country to rule and we will do so to the best of our ability. Twitter’s mission in Nigeria citing those two examples is very suspect. What is their agenda?
“How does Mr. President’s speech that anybody who is destroying infrastructure, who is destroying police stations, who is destroying INEC offices should be ready for the consequences; is that inciting violence?”
While accepting the fact that Twitter may have its own rules, Mohammed said that should not stop Buhari from expressing his views against a banned organisation like IPOB inciting people to commit arson and the likes in the South-east.
He stated: “Twitter may have its own rules, it’s not the universal rule. 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 centres, 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 one 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.
“But I’m saying that you cannot compare anybody with Kanu who boldly say, go and kill policemen. I think sometimes…policemen are brothers, they are our uncle, they are children. We kill them their wives become widows, their children become orphans. And what is the offence of these policemen – because they are working to keep the country one.
What about soldiers that are putting down their lives so that you and I can sleep? It is not acceptable anywhere in the world for anybody, anywhere, to stay in the comfort of wherever he is and now give directives to go and kill soldiers, go and kill policemen.”