Nigeria bans Twitter for deleting President Buhari’s tweet

The government of Nigeria “indefinitely suspended” Twitter’s operations in the country, the Ministry of Information and Culture announced in a statement on Friday.

“The Federal Government has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria,” it read.

The statement, which was posted on the ministry’s official Twitter handle on Friday evening, accused the American social media company of allowing its platform to be used “for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”

The suspension comes two days after Twitter deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari that was widely perceived as offensive.

In that tweet on Tuesday, the Nigerian leader threatened to deal with people in the country’s southeast, who he blames for the recurring attacks on public infrastructure in the region.

“Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” Buhari wrote in the now-deleted tweet, referring to the brutal two-year Nigeria-Biafra war, which killed an estimated one to three million people, mostly from the Igbo tribe in the eastern part of the country between 1967-1970.

The tweet was deleted after it was flagged to Twitter and the platform said it had violated its policy on abusive behavior.

Information Minister Lai Mohammed criticized Twitter’s action and accused the social media giant of “double standards.”

Mohammed also questioned Twitter’s motives in Nigeria, saying, “the mission of Twitter in Nigeria is very very suspect…” at a news conference on Wednesday after Buhari’s tweet was deleted.

Twitter said in a statement that it is “deeply concerned by the blocking of Twitter in Nigeria.”

“Access to the free and #OpenInternet is an essential human right in modern society. We will work to restore access for all those in Nigeria who rely on Twitter to communicate and connect with the world,” it said in a statement.

Data shows more than 39 million Nigerians have a Twitter account.

The Nigerian Bar Association has threatened to take legal action against the Nigerian government if the Twitter ban is not “immediately reversed.”

The President of the association, Olumide Akpata, stated Twitter’s suspension impedes “the right of Nigerians to freely express their constitutionally guaranteed opinions through that medium.”

A Lagos-based civil society group, SERAP, has also vowed to drag the Nigerian government to court over the ban.

“…We’re suing Nigerian authorities over their ILLEGAL indefinite suspension… @NigeriaGov, we’ll see you in court.”

The move has also attracted international condemnation. Amnesty International, the Embassy of Sweden in Nigeria, as well as the British and Canadian missions in the country have spoken up against Twitter’s suspension by Nigerian authorities, all highlighting the importance of freedom of speech for Nigerians.