On the 4th of June, 2021, the federal government of Nigerian concluded plan to place a temporary ban on twitter.  This did not sit well with many Nigerian tweeps since none of them could access the micro blogging website shortly after the temporary ban was announced by the government.

By the midnight of June 5th, 2021, many Nigerians using the normal internet browsing method could not access twitter again, which indicated the decision of the Nigerian government to make good its threats.  Nigeria has about 40 million twitter users. Studies carried out via an NOI poll indicated that about 200% of internet users in Nigeria has a twitter account. 

It should be noted also that the inability to access twitter came barely 3 hours after the government announced the ban.

Excuse for the ban

Earlier, the Ministry of Information and Culture headed by Lai Mohamed announced via its twitter handle that  twitter permitted certain activities on its platform that are detrimental to the corporate existence of Nigeria. Shortly before the ministry made this observation, a tweet posted by General Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigeria president, was taken down by twitter as being against its terms of use. 

Many Nigerians insisted that the ban was not due to the excuse given by the Ministry of Information and Culture, but because twitter removed Buhari’s tweet.  Buhari’s tweet taken down by twitter read as follows: “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 then in the language they understand.”  This tweet caused uproar on the social media space, thereby prompting the micro-blogging platform to take down the tweet.  After deleting the post by the president, twitter also left his account on “read only Mode” and this was the case for up to 12 hours.           

It did not take Nigerians long before they could find an alternative; they started downloading VPN on their mobile devices to enable them use twitter unhindered.  Nigerians were also voicing their displeasure using the twitter platform. Many people condemned the ban, calling it unconstitutional. 

Some even called it a childish tantrum by the president.  Some condemned the president for biting the fingers that fed him, referring back to 2015 when he was seeking election and how much role tweeter and other social media platforms played in getting him elected into office.

The impact of the twitter ban

The ban of twitter by the Nigeria government has some outstanding impacts on Nigeria generally, including the economy and security of the country. It also negatively affected information dissemination.  The twitter ban caused Nigeria a loss of $1.2 billion within three days of the ban according to the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI).  

NetBlocks, an internet watchdog, also stated that the ban cost the Nigerian government up to $250,000 for every hour that it persists, which means that the government lost 2.5 billion naira daily.  Ecommerce investors using twitter as an advertising platform also recorded a loss of $12 billion within the first three days of the ban.

Many Nigerians use the twitter platform to support their hustles and operations, with many of them also using the micro-blogging site for promoting job openings, services and various businesses.

Nigeria has the largest number of tech startups in Africa and many of the tech startups depend on twitter to get investment both from within and outside the country.  The ban affected online influencers and digital marketers a great deal with many of them expressing the negative impact of the ban on their businesses.    

The use of VPN

VPN gave a respite to many Nigerian twitter users as it enables them to connect to the microblogging site while the ban persisted.  However, the use of VPN itself exposed those using it to series of security risks.  For one, some have to pay before they can access VPNs.

Furthermore, those using free VPNs are exposed to security risks. The paid VPNs are generally free form such security risks, but only very few Nigerians could afford the fee-based VPNs.  Using a free VPN can expose the end user to hacking by nefarious elements; it can also expose them to data theft, the impact of which can be destructive if care is not taken.

Very few Nigerians could use the fee-based VPNs considering the prevailing economic problems in the country.  For example, 28.6% of Nigerians are underemployed, while 27.1% are unemployed, bringing the total to about 55.7% of the country’s population.  

This means that more than half of the country’s population is living below poverty line. So, many twitter users using VPN to access the micro-blogging site had to resort to the use of free VPNs, thereby exposing themselves to security risks.

Information dissemination

The ban on twitter by the Nigerian government also negatively impacted information destination. Twitter is a very popular platform for passing information and it has been used many times to quickly reach security agencies in Nigeria, promoting them to swing into action to save the situation.

Thankfully, many of these security agencies have a presence on twitter and they also have their contact details listed there, thereby enabling Nigerians too communicate with them hitch-free. Customers of business organizations across Nigeria like banks, telecommunication companies and so on are also able to reach the organizations concerned swiftly via twitter.

The ease of information dissemination was negatively affected with the ban of twitter by the Nigerian government.

Way forward

The Nigeria government has lifted the said ban on twitter quite alright, but one cannot say the battle is over.  The ban itself exposed the federal government’s inability to better manage the country and its citizens. It also exposed an uncomfortable aside of the government, which indicates that those in power are ready to go after anyone who tends to have an opinion different from theirs.

The ban equally showed that the Nigerian government does not mind if the businesses of Nigerians are destroyed so long as its interest is protected. 

Conclusively, Nigerians need to sit up and elect leaders that have their interests at heart and not those making fake promises.