A human rights activist, Deji Adeyanju, says it is shameful for the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and members of his regime to return to microblogging site, Twitter after suspending the social media platform for over seven months.
The founder of the civic group, Concerned Nigerians, in a chat with The PUNCH on Thursday, described the Twitter ban as an anti-democratic and unconstitutional act in the first place.
Also, activist David Hundeyin said Buhari has succeeded in massaging his ego for over seven months since he suspended the micro-blogging platform on June 4, 2021.
He said, “The removal of the ban itself is not unexpected, because regardless of the Buhari regime’s posturing over the past seven months, it is in fact Twitter that always had the bargaining position. Nigeria needs Twitter and not the other way around. We have wasted seven months of our time as a nation pursuing an imaginary outcome against a global tech giant with a market cap bigger than Nigeria’s annual federal budget.”
The Buhari regime had suspended Twitter operations in Nigeria on June 4, 2021, after the micro-blogging platform deleted a controversial civil war post by the President. Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had said the “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence”.
According to the NetBlocks Cost of Shutdown Tool, Nigeria’s economy lost N104.02m ($250,600) every hour to the ban on Twitter as of December 2021.
The regime, however, said it has lifted the suspension, effective January 13, 2022.
Though the President has not tweeted since the lifting of the ban, his spokesman, Garba Shehu; Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, amongst other members of the cabinet have resumed tweeting.
But Adeyanju said it is shameful for members of the regime to return to the social media platform after suppressing free speech.
He said, “It is indeed shameful for President Buhari, Garba Shehu and others to return to Twitter after subverting the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria through the Twitter Ban and returning to the same platform they denied Nigerians from using for many months. The ban had no place in law and was a clear violation of section 39 rights of Nigerians.
“The Twitter ban in the first place is an anti-democratic act, it is unconstitutional, has no basis in law because our constitution has made explicit provision that Nigerians have the right to express themselves and have the right to hold opinion and receive information. So, the ban was a contravention of the rights of Nigerians on social media, especially on Twitter.”
The activist also said the ban and its lifting have already portrayed Nigeria in bad light among the comity of nations, adding that the development would affect the human rights index of the country.
“There should not only be freedom of speech but freedom after speech,” he said.
Nigeria has over 33 million active social media users. WhatsApp is the most popular platform used in the country, with over 90 million users according to Statista. About 61.4 per cent of Nigerian social media users use Twitter, 86.2 per cent use Facebook, 81.6 per cent use YouTube, 73.1 per cent use Instagram, and 67.2 per cent use Facebook Messenger.
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