The Nigerian government’s decision to ban Twitter and prosecute those who continue using the platform is a blatant and unjustified restriction on civic space and people’s right to information through social media.
The government said its decision, announced on Twitter on June 4, was due to the “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.” The ban came a few days after Twitter deleted tweets by President Muhammadu Buhari for violating the platform’s policies. The deleted tweets referenced the 1967-1970 Nigerian Civil War and discussed treating “those misbehaving today in the language they will understand.”
Facebook removed the same posts from its platform, also citing policy violations.
On June 5, the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria announced that its members had received and complied with instructions from the authorities to block access to Twitter. The state also directed all television and radio stations to stop using Twitter which they described as unpatriotic.
Millions of people across Nigeria, especially youth, rely on social media to engage in discourse and to share and access information. Twitter was especially crucial for organizing during the October 2020 EndSARS protests against police brutality and other campaigns calling for government accountability. The authorities have proposed legislation criminalizing criticism of the government on social media, but citizens pushed back.