Twitter launches ‘voice tweet’

•Facebook joins face-off with govt, deletes Buhari post too

•Why we took action — FG

By Prince Osuagwu, Clifford Ndujihe, Benjamin Njoku, Emmanuel Elebeke, Peter Duru & Dirisu Yakubu

Nigerians reacted with shock and anger yesterday after the Federal Government announced the indefinite suspension of the operations of micro-blogging and social networking service, Twitter in the country.

The suspension was in response to Twitter’s decision last Wednesday to delete a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari in which he threatened to treat those attacking security agencies “with the language they understand”.

This is just as another social media platform, Facebook, has also yesterday joined Twitter in deleting President Buhari’s tweet. Both Twitter and Facebook considered President Buhari’s tweet last Tuesday as offensive for violating their community standards against inciting violence.

Why we suspended Twitter

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who announced the suspension in a statement, yesterday, cited persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence. He insisted that the platform’s mission in Nigeria is suspicious.

In the statement signed by Special Assistant To The President (Media) Office of the Minister of Information and Culture,  Mr. Segun Adeyemi, 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.

Twitter had on Wednesday  deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu  Buhar in which he threatened to punish pro-Biafra groups blamed for escalating attacks on government and security authorities.

The social media firm said Buhari’s tweet violated its “abusive behaviour” policy, leading to a 12-hour suspension of his account.

The tweet promised a response to waves of attacks blamed on the Eastern Security Network (ESN), an armed group which emerged from the main pro-Biafran secessionist movement, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

However, in its response, the Federal Government condemned Twitter’s removal of President Buhari’s tweet, saying that the platform’s mission in Nigeria was suspicious. Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed said Twitter rules is not universal, saying the President’s tweet did not in any way incite violence.

Facebook joins Twitter in deleting Buhari’s post on civil war

Meanwhile, Facebook has also deleted President Buhari’s civil war statement for violating its community standards against inciting violence. The entire statement had been removed from the social media platform for violating Community Standards against inciting violence.

Facebook, reiterating its commitment to remove any content, from individuals or organisations that violates Facebook policies said, “in line with our global policies, we’ve removed a post from President Buhari’s Facebook page for violating our Community Standards against inciting violence. We remove any content, from individuals or organisations that violates our policies on Facebook.”

PDP rejects FG’s decision

Reacting to the suspension yesterday, the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP,  rejected what it called the unwarranted suspension of the social media platform, Twitter, by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government, describing it as a draconian action and a slide towards a fascist regime in our country.

The party asserted that the suspension of twitter, “is a vexatious, condemnable and barbaric move to muzzle Nigerians, particularly the youths, ostensibly to prevent them from holding the overtly corrupt, vindictive and divisive Buhari administration accountable for its atrocities, including human right violations, patronizing of terrorists and outright suppressive acts against innocent Nigerians.”

In a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP expressed worry that government could exhibit “such primitive intolerance and power intoxication because the social media giant demonstrated international best practices in not allowing the Buhari presidency to use Twitter as a platform to propagate and spread the Buhari administration’s hatred towards Nigerians.”

“Moreover, freedom of speech is firmly guaranteed in our constitution and the Buhari administration should be ready to face Nigerians over its misrule. In the case of any infringement, our nation has adequate extant laws to deal with such and not this move to gag the people.

Rescind suspension within 48 hours or face legal action—SERAP

In its own reaction, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) condemned the “illegal and unconstitutional suspension of Twitter’s Operations in Nigeria,” and called on “the government of President  Buhari to immediately rescind the suspension within 48 hours or face legal action.”

SERAP in a statement by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said: “The suspension of Twitter in Nigeria is a blatant violation of Nigerians’ rights to freedom of expression and access to information. The suspension has the character of collective punishment and is contrary to Nigeria’s international obligations. President Buhari must immediately rescind this unconstitutional suspension. We will see in court if the suspension is not rescinded within 48 hours.”

The statement read in part: “Twitter in Nigeria would deny Nigerians’ access to information, and disrupt the free exchange of ideas and the ability of individuals to connect with one another and associate peacefully on matters of shared concern. It would also seriously undermine the ability of Nigerians to promote transparency and accountability in the country, and to participate in their own government.

“We call on the Nigerian authorities to guarantee the constitutionally and internationally recognized human rights of Nigerians including online. Deletion of President Buhari’s tweets should never be used as a pretext to suppress the civic space and undermine Nigerians’ fundamental human rights.”

Suspension capable of undermining economic boost— ICT professionals

Most Information and Communications Technology, ICT professionals who reacted to the announcement, described it as a decision made without deep knowledge of technology’s dynamism.

They also argued that the decision could undermine the economic boost technology gives the country by way of consistently strengthening the Gross Domestic Product, GDP.

A telecom engineer who didn’t want his name mentioned, said: “The irony of this Twitter suspension is that federal government announced it on Twitter. How embarrassing can this be?  I am imagining how the world is looking at us now. I just wish, this is one of those statements they will come out tomorrow to denounce” he added.

Umbrella body of telecom companies in Nigeria, the Association of licensed telecom operators, ALTON did not give any official statement. However, close sources to the association said the announcement came as a rude shock because of the inconsistencies it contained. “How is government going to implement this ban? Again asking NBC to license all OTTs in Nigeria is absurd. Is it NBC now and not NCC that should be responsible for that”?, he queried.

Another tech experts and Engineer, Mr Femi-Bola Oluwaniyi of Phempion company limited said: “Government needs to engage more instead of banning anything they don’t understand. It is a misplaced priority as well. Twitter is not a threat to Nigeria’s co-existence. Twitter is not more harmful than any other social media. Our leaders should look inward and ask themselves the difficult questions.

READ ALSO: Twitter Ban: Malami orders prosecution of offenders

“What is threatening us as country is insecurity, not twitter. Is Twitter responsible for Boko Haram and other militia groups? No. So this suspension is ill timed” he said.

FG’s decision too hasty—Prof Adeyemi

Also reacting, former Vice Chancellor of Bell University, Prof. Isaac Adeyemi, said, “The decision of the Federal Government to ban Twitter would appear too hasty without much consideration. The ban, no doubt, will definitely have a negative impact on the economy of Nigeria and on some individuals.  Twitter remains the foremost source of  information dissemination globally. Furthermore, it is one of the foremost sources of advertisements for a wide range of professionals.

“A lot of calls for grants, scholarship advertisements etc are made through Twitter. The global business is highly interconnected through the platform, as such banning of Twitter will have negative impact on businesses. It is also an excellent source of breaking news which in the short or medium term will make Nigerians and the news media not to be abreast of breaking news.

Although, there are other alternatives such as Facebook, Parler, Instagram and Pinterest, Twitter is currently in the lead within and outside Nigeria and has a wider reach and accessibility for an average person.

“The other side of the coin is the fact that it could be a challenge for Nigeria’s IT professionals and practitioners to come up with an alternative platform which is homegrown.  Not only does Nigeria have seasoned IT professionals within the country but also outside the country who work and drive similar platforms.  The government through meaningful cooperation with the private sector should harness all relevant resources to make it work. Also, the right enabling environment must be provided and such a platform should be free of government control and must be given a free hand to operate.

For now,  some individual Nigerians who work for Twitter as consultants, operators and service providers will definitely lose their jobs which presently one may not be able to quantify in financial terms.”

FG’s suspension of Twitter height of impunity, intolerance to criticisms – Global Amnesty Watch

The Global Amnesty Watch, GAW, described the decision of the Federal Government to suspend the operations of Twitter in Nigeria as the height of impunity and intolerance to criticisms.

Speaking on the development, Country Representative of GAW, Comrade Terrence Kuanum, who spoke Friday in a telephone interview in Makurdi said the action of the President Buhari led federal government had exposed the government’s intolerance to opposing views and actions.

According to him, “Twitter did not come to Nigeria because of President Muhammadu Buhari, so his decision to suspend the operation of Twitter in Nigeria is the height of impunity and intolerance to criticism of his policies and actions.

“What Twitter did by deleting his post was to try to prevent the crisis he was trying to provoke in this country by the statement he was making instead of offering leadership to end the crisis.

“And now if Twitter had done that and he is so intolerable, it then means that the damage he has caused this country is not enough and he has taken it further across the borders to start to engaging in crisis with international organisations and Nations across the world where millions of Nigerians are plying their trade. And if these relationships are affected, obviously they are going to also affect millions of Nigerians.

“So we need to rise up and reject such a call and decision by the presidency. Of course President Buhari is not even an active user of Twitter and obviously he might not be the one that even sent that twit. But we are going to rise up as Nigerians because we are part of the global citizenry. And because tweet is for all global citizens we are not going to allow him frustrate us because of his failures in leadership and allergy to criticism.”

Celebrities condemn ban on Twitter

Among the celebrities who reacted to the ban, were RnB singer Banky W, his wife, Adesua Etomi-Wellington, Wizkid as well as young entrepreneur and  software developer, Mark Essein. 

In a tweet, Banky W said, “Nigerian government bans Twitter and announced the ban on Twitter. You can’t make this up. Clueless,” Banky W tweeted.  Also, in her own tweet, Banky W’s wife, Adesua said: “You announced the suspension of Twitter on Twitter. You can’t make this stuff up.

Wzikid simply tweeted, “ Essence.”  For  young entrepreneur and  software developer, Mark Essein, this is last move of a failing government, which is to try to silence everyone who points out that they are failing.

According to Sega Leveiller, “It’s only in Nigeria that government  will suspend Twitter operations using their handle on Twitter to communicate same.” 

Dr. Dipo Awojide wondered whether President Buhari and the Federal Government know how much young Nigerians make on daily basis  on social media platforms like Twitter. “Does Lai Mohammed know the number of jobs being  sustained by twitter in Nigeria?What is wrong with this people?, he asked.

However, others who  reacted expressed different opinions, with some condemning federal government action, while others supported the decision to ban the micro-blogging platform.

According to Alhaji Lamido Abubakar, “Dictators in civilian suits, means if Buhari suffers all Nigerians suffer. Just like when he was newly elected in 2015, and slept for months before forming a cabinet. 

Vanguard News Nigeria

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.