…Businesses on Twitter grumble

…ALTON, ATCON PIN decry ban, seek quick resolution.

By Prince Osuagwu, Hi-tech Editor

The Nigerian economy may have declined by over 2billion Naira in just one day of Twitter ban.

This is if the statistics of Netblocks.org, a mapping internet freedom platform is anything to rely upon.

The platform automatically aggregates cost of shutdown tools and estimates the economic impacts of an internet disruption, mobile data blackouts or app restrictions using indicators from the world bank, ITU, Eurostat and US census as the case may be.

On the case of Nigeria shutting down Twitter, the platform says the country’s economy would be drawn back by N2, 177,089,051 in just one day that it has lasted.

The platform said it relied on booking institution methods which relied on development indicators, approximated digital economy extent of 0.05 and classic free app GDP impact technique to arrive at its conclusion.

Being an artificial intelligent, AI- based study, Netblocks statistics are almost perfect at all times.

The report tallies with reports of several businesses which rely on Twitter to promote their services.

Some of them who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, described the development as a sad economic setback.

A popular food place in Satellite town by Abule Ado junction said  it has lost huge revenue since morning it’s Twitter handle stopped to work, because most of the food bookings come through Twitter.

According to a top manager who pleaded we should leave out his name and that of his outfit, “most of our orders come through Twitter. It appears a more reliable and respectable platform for some of our high profile customers to order what they want. If you even escalate the loss to all our outlets across the country, you can see it  is unquantifiable; and we are just talking of one day. A quick resolution is needed if this country will continue to be known as a business destination” he added.

Many others, including mobile phone sales and services outlets and value added services provision firms decry the impacts of the suspension, praying that government reverses it.

A Lagos-Based phone services company EmmaTech says suspending Twitter is not a big issue if there were alternative platforms but doing so purely on sentimental reasons will crush the economy.

CEO of the company, Emma Egenti said: “look countries like China, Korea among others have done this and heaven didn’t fall. But for goodness sake, they did it when they had lined up alternatives. Ours is just that a president’s tweet was deleted. Now, businesses are suffering in just few hours this suspension has been enforced. I have made calls round my colleagues and other related services, it looks as if a valuable chunk of earning process is yanked off our businesses. “Most times, what we do entails constantly getting in touch with manufacturers who are far away from here. “Twitter is one of the most easiest and convenient way of doing the back and forth in this our genre of service provision. Since morning it looks as if we are mourning. It looks as if we are starting afresh. What kind of thing is this? Meanwhile, Twitter is not even most affected, because most of the adverts that give it revenue are not from here. I think we should think things through before doing them” he added.

Recall, the Federal Government on Friday suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria.

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.

It followed up the suspension with a directive to all the Tele communications companies in Nigeria to immediately deactivate all Twitter platforms from their networks. An order which was immediately carried out by 12 midnight Friday.

The umbrella body of all licensed telecom operators in Nigeria, ALTON, which confirmed the directive said it also directed all its members to comply to keep their contractual agreement with government but noted that the action undermines free speech.

In a statement, Chairman of the group, Engr Gbenga Adebayo and Executive Secretary Gbolahan Awonuga said: “As an industry, we endorse the position of the United Nations that the rights held by people offline must also be protected online. This includes respecting and protecting the rights of all people to communicate, to share information freely and responsibly, and to enjoy privacy and security regarding their data and their use of digital communications,”

Since the development, many social crusaders, human rights activists and advocacy groups, including Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, SERAP and Paradigm Initiatives Nigeria, PIN have criticised the suspension, saying it was ill motived

 In a statement, PIN said: “Today, the 4th of June 2021, the Federal Government of Nigeria announced its suspension of Twitter operations, that the application can be used as a platform for activities capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.

 “Many Nigerians read the announcement of the ban on Twitter as a reflection of the importance of the platform and other digital (social media) platforms to Nigerians in accessing information and disseminating the same.

“The directive by the Nigerian government is at its core, an abuse of the rights of Nigerians not just to freedom of expression, but many other rights guaranteed in the Nigerian 1999 Constitution (as amended), the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This suspension, which is a reaction of the Nigerian government to the company’s enforcement of its platform rules, is aimed at insulating the government from criticism, especially by Nigeria’s youth who are over 70 percent of the country’s population.

“It must be noted that Nigeria’s President has notably been insulated from every form of public accountability. He is perhaps the only president since the country’s return to democracy in 1999 who never grants live interviews or holds media chats. This move is therefore aimed at making him unaccountable to the people of Nigeria who constantly take to social media platforms to share their views on the actions and policies of the government.

“It is evident that shutting down Twitter is illegal and illegitimate policies such as this are unacceptable!

READ ALSO: Twitter suspension: Malami’s prosecution order illegal, null, void – PDP

“A 2016 United Nations resolution affirms that the rights that citizens have offline must apply online. Coincidentally, this resolution was co-sponsored by Nigeria with others. We urge the Nigerian authorities to respect and enforce citizens’ fundamental rights as provided for by the Nigerian constitution and International human rights treaties that Nigeria is a party to. 

“We will further contact the Ministry of Information to get exact details of this announcement, and the legal framework that supports such undemocratic pronouncement”.

However, The Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) has given hope to Nigerians that it is working closely with relevant stakeholders to ensure there is a speedy resolution of the suspension.  

President of the association, Engr. Ikechukwu Nnamani stated that while the Association and its member Companies understand the position of the Federal Government, the reasons for the directive, and have complied with the directive, it is pertinent that the issue is resolved soon in the interest of all. 

He said the OTT platforms of which Twitter is one, are integral parts of the Digital Economy that the Federal Government is promoting. For him, when an unfortunate disagreement arises with respect to the user policies, it is good to resolve in a timely manner.

Already, many twitter users are downloading virtual private networks (VPNs) which enables them to continue using the platforms for their economic survival and social and political engagements.

But the Attoney general, Abubakar Malami, in another sudden pronouncement, has ordered the prosecution of any Nigerian found using twitter.

Meanwhile, in all these, twitter appears unfazed with the development, and has not issued any official statements, despite risking loss of its 25.64 percent social media market share to the suspension.

Unconfirmed reports quoted officials of twitter to have said it will react appropriately to the government’s action in due time.

When Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey visited Nigeria in 2019, he seriously complained that Nigeria did not have enough twitter users; though he promised to rev up activities that will lure users to twitter.

Vanguard News Nigeria


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