Mixed reactions as the Nigerian government lifts Twitter banRuth Torty 14th January 2022 0 COMMENTS
After 222 days, the Nigerian government finally lifts the ban on Twitter. The action which took place by the midnight of January 13, 2022 elicited mixed reactions from Nigerians.
Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, the Director-general of Nigeria’s technology agency, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), made the announcement via a statement. He was earlier appointed chairman of the committee to oversee talks between the country and Twitter after the ban.
Although some Nigerians celebrated the lifting of the ban, it appears that the damage was already done. Several Nigerians were reportedly affected financially due to the ban as it inhibited online advertisements and showcase of their goods and services.
Could it be a 2023 campaign strategy?
It should come as no surprise that some Nigerians view this development with suspicion. Could it be ‘coincidental’ that the government lifted the Twitter ban lift close to the 2023 general elections? This question has raised suspicion amongst Nigerians. Ides Ofune, the Editor of Desert Bloom Advisory and PhD researcher in civil society and accountability in improving the quality of education at Leeds University, shared her thoughts on the development. “I don’t believe they genuinely wanted to lift the ban. It may be due to the upcoming elections with campaigns expected to commence soon. As we have seen in Nigeria from past elections, Twitter played and continues to play a very important role in shaping elections, in shaping people’s opinions and who they vote for.” she added.
What concessions were made?
Twitter is said ‘to have reached’ some agreements with the federal government. These agreements allegedly include the appointment of a designated country representative and opening a local office in Nigeria. Twitter is also reported to have agreed to enrolling the Nigeria government in its Partner Support and Law Enforcement Portals. This portal will provide a direct channel for government officials and Twitter staff to manage prohibited content. However, as at the time of this report, there has been no press release from the social media company affirming this. Infact, Twitter only expressed their joy for their Nigerian users in a tweet via the Twitter Policy page
The tweet reads “We are pleased that Twitter has been restored for everyone in Nigeria. Our mission in Nigeria & around the world, is to serve the public conversation. We are deeply committed to Nigeria, where Twitter is used by people for commerce, cultural engagement, and civic participation.”
Several individuals await a press release or statement from Twitter that either confirms or denies the statement released by the government.
The VPN route
There is no doubt that Twitter plays an important role both politically and socially. “If you want to be an opinion shaper in Nigeria, then you have to be on Twitter.” Ides added. It appears this is one reason why the ban did not stop Nigerians including government officials from accessing the app. Several individuals resorted to using VPN to stay active. VPN protects your online identity, hides your IP address, and shields your online data from third parties. Surprisingly, there were no disciplinary actions against those who used VPN to access the social media the app during the ban as against the earlier warnings from the government. Hence, the question, ‘What was the essence of the Twitter ban in first place?’
Given the history of politics and governance in Nigeria, there is a lot to be done in the country. Hopefully, several Nigerians can readily and effectively use this as a tool regain or gain better opportunities. Moving forward, as the government lifts the Twitter ban, it is expected that Nigerians be more proactive by using Twitter as a platform to hold the government accountable for their actions.
Ruth Torty is a biochemist, and freelance science writer. She writes to shed light on health issues, rare diseases and science research in Nigeria. She is also a creative writer and has published on different literary sites including Spillwords and Nnoko Stories. She is passionate about genomics and its role in healthcare.