The Nigerian government has directed the country’s telecommunications operators to shut down whatever access is left to Twitter within the country’s borders by June 12, after the social media giant deleted a post by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Our members received formal instruction from the Nigerian Communications Commission, the industry regulator, to suspend access to Twitter,” Gbenga Awonuga, executive secretary of the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ATLON), told NewsMax. “We are only following the directive of the government, as we are licensees of the government.”
While the indefinite ban was carried out by network providers on June 4, in some instances, the platform was still accessible by the next morning. Awonuga said that those network carriers “are in the process of disconnecting access.”
The country’s attorney general declared that anyone who breaks the rules that ban Twitter would be immediately prosecuted, without elaborating on the exact nature of what a violation would constitute.
“Based on national interest provisions … our members have acted in compliance with the directives of the Nigerian Communications Commission,” ALTON said, according to Reuters.
The Nigerian government’s move came two days after Twitter removed a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish regional secessionists in the West African country.
The removal of the president’s post was addressed by Information Minister Lai Mohammed, who maintained that the president has the right to talk about security matters, and criticized the tech company’s actions.
“The mission of Twitter in Nigeria is very, very suspect,” Mohammed said.
“Twitter may have its own rules, but it’s not the universal rule. If Mr. President, anywhere in the world, feels very bad and concerned about a situation, he is free to express such views. Any organization that gives directives to its members to attack police stations, to kill policemen … you are saying that Mr. President does not have the right to express his dismay and anger about that?”
Mohammed compared the situation in the United States, when rioters were “burning police stations and killing policemen,” to that of demonstrations in Nigeria against police brutality, saying that Twitter held that it was their “right to protest.”
“But when a similar thing happened at the Capitol, it became insurrection,” he said, referring to the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol breach, which prompted Twitter to ban over 70,000 accounts, including then-President Donald Trump’s account, saying that his posts posed a risk of “further incitement of violence,” even though Trump’s posts specifically urged protesters to be peaceful.
On June 5, British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria Gill Atkinson wrote on Twitter that “all Nigerians have the right to freedom of speech and the responsibility not to misuse that right.
“Any action taken by government must be measured, proportionate and not suppress basic freedoms.”
On the same day, Twitter announced that they would work to reestablish access for all the people in Nigeria that want to use the platform and said that the indefinite suspension was “deeply concerning.”
Amnesty International criticized the move and asked Nigerian officials to “immediately reverse the unlawful suspension and other plans to gag the media, repress the civic space, and undermine Nigerians’ human rights.”
Twitter didn’t immediately return a request by The Epoch Times for comment.