WASHINGTON has stepped up the pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari to rescind his recent ban on the use of Twitter across Nigeria pointing out that such restrictions have no place in a democratic government.
Earlier this month, the federal government announced an indefinite suspension of Twitter’s activities in Nigeria following a row during which the social media platform deleted a tweet from President Buhari. In the tweet, he had threatened secessionists in the southeast geo-political zone with war in response to their agitation for an independent state, which Twitter said contravened its rules.
Nigerian civil society groups have condemned the ban, saying it is a breach of free speech, while the country’s entertainment industry has said it will lead to the loss of thousands of jobs. Despite the ban, millions of Nigerians have continued to use Twitter, including state governors, clergymen and celebrities who have been using virtual private networks (VPN) to access the site.
Stepping up the pressure on President Buhari, Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, said restricting the use of social media has no place in a democratic government. He added that the US condemned the indefinite ban on Twitter by the Buhari government.
Mr Blinken said: “The United States condemns the ongoing suspension of Twitter by the Nigerian government and subsequent threats to arrest and prosecute Nigerians who use Twitter. The US is likewise concerned that the Nigerian National Broadcasting Commission ordered all television and radio broadcasters to cease using Twitter.
“Unduly restricting the ability of Nigerians to report, gather, and disseminate opinions and information has no place in a democracy. Freedom of expression and access to information both online and offline are foundational to prosperous and secure democratic societies.
“We support Nigeria as it works towards unity, peace, and prosperity. As its partner, we call on the government to respect its citizens’ right to freedom of expression by reversing this suspension.”
Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s information minister cited some security issues as being responsible for the ban, adding that Nigerians were persistently using the platform for activities that are capable of undermining the country’s corporate existence. With the ban, Nigeria joins North Korea, Iran, China and Turkmenistan on the list of countries that have issues with Twitter.