By Opeyemi Solaru
Last week, while addressing the nation about recent insecurity and attacks on government buildings, President Buhari tweeted a threat to secessionists in Southeastern Nigeria. This resulted in a lot of backlash on Twitter and as a result, the tweet was removed from the platform. Twitter released a statement saying that the tweet was removed because it violated the “abusive behavior” policy.
Since the Twitter ban, many Nigerians have resorted to using virtual private network (VPN) as Nigerian telecommunication companies blocked Twitter within hours of the Twitter ban announcement. Whether it be to sell products or to advertise skills while job searching, Twitter is a very critical tool. Refusing to part with Twitter is more than an act of defiance from Nigerians. Many Nigerians rely on the social media platform for their livelihoods. As a country with a 45% unemployment rate, this is extremely problematic.
Since 2016, Nigeria has ranked in the bottom 25% of countries on the World Bank Doing Business Assessment. The banning of Twitter within Nigeria serves as another example of a roadblock created by the Government. Analysts at Netblock, a global internet monitor, have found that as a result of the Twitter ban, $250,000 is lost every hour. The government’s inclination to make decisions without thinking about the consequences is costing Nigeria millions of dollars in closed business deals and potential business deals foregone. Beyond financial consequences, this ban has the potential to taint Nigeria’s reputation as a democracy.
In April Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information expressed his dismay with Twitter launching its African office in Africa in Accra rather than Lagos. Last week, he stated that “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.” There seems to be a lack of synergy between the decisions the government makes and the outcomes they expect from Nigerians and other foreign stakeholders. As discussed in previous articles, this is evident in this year’s Cryptocurrency ban as well as the Okada ban of last year.
Yet again, this will likely deter even more foreign investment and engagement from potential business owners. Additionally, this ban is a clear infringement on the rights of citizens.
With these new rules in place, it will be interesting to see how Nigerian’s navigate in spite of the ban. Nigerian entrepreneurs have proven to be resilient in the face of obstacles, whether it be a new policy or economic hardship and this will likely be no different.