The Nigerian government announced on Friday that it would no longer allow Twitter to continue operating in the African nation, marking the latest tit-for-tat between the two parties after the company deleted a tweet fired off by the Nigerian president.
The surprise announcement in Abuja, Nigeria, was declared by Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who serves as the country’s minister of information and culture. The ban stemmed from the “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria's corporate existence.”
Government officials in Nigeria did not offer any further specifics on how Twitter was being used to undercut the nation’s “corporate existence.” It’s also unclear when exactly the ban will take effect.
The announcement also indicated that NBC, Nigeria’s national broadcasting regulator, has been ordered to “immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT [internet streaming services] and social media operations” within the country.
Twitter responded to the development by indicating that it would be investigating the country’s move and would be providing additional details in the near future. The company deemed the announcement “deeply concerning.”
The latest chess move came after Twitter removed a post by Buhari on Wednesday that contained what many deemed was a threat to punish individuals responsible for the recent spate of attacks on electoral offices and police stations across the nation.
“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,” Buhari, who served as a general during the conflict, wrote in the since-deleted tweet. “Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”
Deemed in violation of Twitter’s abusive behavior policy, the tweet was removed and Buhari’s account was suspended for 12 hours, effectively leaving the page in a “read-only” mode for the duration of the suspension.
Mohammed later slammed Twitter’s decision and accused the company of being biased, underscoring that the Nigerian president has a right to express his opinions on matters that affect the country. He also stated that “the mission of Twitter in Nigeria is very, very suspect.”
Twitter is widely popular in the West African country and played a central role in anti-police brutality protests that rocked Nigeria in 2020, as the platform was used to organize #EndSars demonstrations. Jack Dorsey, the tech giant’s chief executive officer, joined the campaign and even encouraged others to donate to the cause. A special emoji was even created in support of the movement.
Speculation previously suggested that Twitter would be establishing its first African headquarters in Nigeria. However, the company later chose to set up shop in Ghana as it is a “supporter of free speech, online freedom and the open internet.”
In response to the Friday announcement, rights groups have blasted the development.
Amnesty International Nigeria condemned the government’s move and noted that the “unlawful suspension” is “clearly inconsistent and incompatible with Nigeria's international obligations including under the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” Nigerian nonprofit group SERAP also declared that it would be filing a lawsuit against the government initiative.