On the morning of June 5th, 23-year-old Farida Garba* opened her Twitter application and found that she liked 39 million other Nigerians Twitter users cannot access the platform.
“The tweets no longer load. It took me an hour to figure out what happened,” Garba* — who chose to use this pseudonym for her personal safety — told BuzzFeed News.
Just the day before, the Nigerian government announced that it would suspend Twitter operations in the country. Ironically, Twitter account Federal Ministry of Information and Culture. On the day the ban took effect, the Nigerian Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators, representing all telecommunications companies and service providers in the country, comfirmed Its members have received an order from the federal government to suspend all Internet users’ access to Twitter.
The government called the ban “temporary“, but did not specify how long it will be valid. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari (Muhammadu Buhari) also did not. When asked about the future of the ban, he In a rare interview, Still tight-lipped, and said he will leave the timetable to himself.
To many people, the announcement of the ban appears to be a response to Twitter’s decision delete A tweet from Buhari claimed that it violated the app’s rules for “abuse”. His account was also suspended for 12 hours.
This controversial tweet threatens to treat a rebel group considered backward Recent attacks The force against security personnel in southeastern Nigeria is reminiscent of the Biafra-Nigerian Civil War from 1967 to 1970. This may happen in a country that continues to struggle with racial confrontation and separatist tensions led by those who wish to secede from Nigeria and restore the independent Biafra country.
In response to the deletion of this tweet, the Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed held a Press conference In the capital, Abuja, he called Twitter’s activities in Nigeria “suspicious” and accused the platform of having an “agenda”.
A few days later, the ban was announced and quickly promulgated without any deliberations by the legislature, which made many Nigerians unbelievable.
In this West African country, social media has played an indispensable role, giving citizens the opportunity to express their opinions and publicly express dissatisfaction with the government outside of the election cycle. In October 2020, the Weibo platform was crucial to maintaining the #EndSARS protest against police brutality. This protest lasted for more than two weeks. massacre At least 12 officers.
Before the brutal end of the #EndSARS movement, Twitter helped protesters organize, obtain donations, allocate resources, and keep demonstrators in touch on the ground and online.When the Central Bank of Nigeria blocked donations to nearly 20 bank accounts related to the protests under a federal order, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey expressed his support for the demonstrations On Twitter that Nigerians should adopt Bitcoin as an alternative.
Many Nigerians believe that the ban is also a partial retaliation for Dorsey’s actions during the fall protests.
“Thanks to social media, the protests started and gained considerable momentum,” a 23-year-old journalist Eniafi Momodo told BuzzFeed News. “This may be the first time that many older Nigerians, including most of our government officials, truly understand the power and influence of social media.”
However, even before #EndSARS, the Nigerian government under Buhari had been trying to establish social media restrictions. In 2019, AAnti-Social Media Act, Trying to criminalize the use of social media to “sell false or malicious information”.The bill met with opposition from the public and they initiated petition At the same time, it was said that it was to further supervise the people and was eventually killed.
Before that, in 2015, another now-withdrawn legislation was named Reckless petition (Prohibition) The bill was introduced less than a year after Buhari came to power. The proposed law threatens that anyone convicted of publishing “false information that may threaten national security” will face up to seven years in prison or a fine of $25,000.
Human rights lawyer Ridwan Oke told BuzzFeed News that according to the Nigerian Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights, Twitter bans and threats of prosecution are illegal.
“They are all talking about the same thing, which is the right to freedom of speech. They are inalienable rights,” Oak said.
Some human rights organizations have publicly opposed the ban, the socio-economic rights and accountability project Sued the Federal Government to the Court of the Economic Community of West African States, 176 relevant Nigerians joined the lawsuit.
The move to block Twitter has been Get support From former US President Donald Trump, he suggested that he should do the same during his tenure, and accused the social media platform of “not allowing free speech and openness”.
It is difficult to quantify the impact of this ban on millions of people who consider Twitter to be a major resource. Nigerians we talked to shared that they felt uneasy, anxious or scared, and most people said they still didn’t believe it.
Olapeju Jolaoso, a 28-year-old business owner, told BuzzFeed News: “When the ban was announced, I was scared, as if something bad was going to happen and we couldn’t ask for help.” “My first customers left Twitter. Now I am. I’m just afraid of tweets from my business account; I’m afraid they will harass me. It’s even more terrifying because you can’t predict their next move,” she continued.
What made her even more frustrated was that Jolaoso, who had a supplier network on Twitter, had to transfer her online business operations to other applications, such as Telegram and Facebook.
But Twitter’s strength also lies in the safety and community it provides for women and queer people-both of which are severely marginalized groups in the country. Somi, a Nigerian non-binary transgender woman, believes this ban is a huge harm.
“Twitter is my place to find friends and community,” said the 19-year-old young man, who is currently crowdfunding for their healthcare transformation. “Seek advice and encouragement without outside judgment. I’m here [used my voice] I got all the help I needed. “
For 21-year-old queer liberation activist and writer Ani Kayode Somtochukwu, the potential impact on LGBTQ Nigerians is huge, who saw social media applications such as Twitter escape.
“For us, social media is not only about facilitating organization-it is also about security. We cannot assemble legally without legal restrictions,” he said.
In Nigeria, showing love to members of the same sex is an offense 10 years Sentence.
Somtochukwu also stated that if the ban continues, LGBTQ Nigerians will be affected.
“This will mean losing the community, losing information that can sometimes save lives, and losing the opportunity to get help when needed,” he said.
For Nigerian women, Twitter helps to eliminate inequality and the increasing violence against them.Activities such as Yaba Market March, Trying to fight against the culture of groping and sexual harassment, found his own life on Twitter.
Public relations consultant and activist Ebele Molua explained: “This has become a space for sharing opportunities, a place to appeal against violations of our rights, to provide emotional support, etc.” “We strive to be in a society that does not care about human rights and the progress of marginalized groups. Find a way out to sustain yourself.”
Experts suggest that Nigeria will suffer heavy losses due to this ban. According to NetBlocks’ shutdown tool cost, Nigeria’s loss just ended Twitter is still inaccessible, $6 million per day. Adeboye Adegoke, senior project manager of the Paradigm Initiative, who advocates for digital inclusion and digital rights in Africa, said the consequences also include damage to the country’s reputation as a democracy.
“The current Nigerian government has repeatedly proven that it does not believe in democratic ideals,” Adegoke said. “A move like this will discourage investors. Therefore, it will definitely have this effect on FDI (foreign direct investment). I hope we can find a way to measure it so that we can truly judge what might be lost.”
For many Nigerians, there seems to be no end.
“I don’t think the ban will be lifted anytime soon,” Cheta Nwanze, one of Nigeria’s political thought leaders and head of SBM Intelligence, told BuzzFeed News.
“This particular government has a record of doubling down on bad ideas…I sincerely hope that I am wrong, but I think this ban will continue into the election season.”
At present, young Nigerians are full of contradictions on the way forward. Some sources we interviewed did not know what would happen next, but chose to wait for the ban to end. “I am very afraid of protesting because these people killed us before, [and] They might do it again,” Garba said.
However, others are looking forward to returning to the streets to participate in protests, such as those that took place in June 12 It coincides with Nigeria Democracy Day.The demonstrations held in different parts of the country were basically peaceful, but suffered Heavy Nigeria Police Force Present. The officials did not hesitate to use force and violence, arresting others while releasing tear gas on some people.
Molua said she did not believe that “Nigerians can wait patiently for longer”.
“October awakens something in our hearts because it shook our hearts,” she said. “This shows us that if we are united, we can better voice and demand from our leaders. I hope [can] It will indeed bring us victory in the end. “●