“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.”
Some pointed out the irony of announcing the ban on Twitter, with one person replying: “You’re using Twitter to suspend Twitter? Are you not mad?”
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.
The tweet was deleted Wednesday after many Nigerians flagged it 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.”
Twitter said in a statement that it is “deeply concerned by the blocking of Twitter in Nigeria.”
Twitter’s site blocked
From the early hours of Saturday, Twitter’s site was inaccessible for many Nigerians. It was a swift implementation of the government ban which took effect just hours after the policy was announced.
Many Nigerians have condemned the ban, with the country’s main opposition party describing the move as “unwarranted” and “pushing Nigerians to the wall.”
It was a popular medium for organizing last year’s anti-police brutality End Sars protests, and Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s founder donated to the cause, which drew the government’s ire.
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 highlighted the importance of freedom of speech for Nigerians.
‘Thank God For VPN’
A Twitter trend “Thank God For VPN” has gone viral on the app as many Nigerians celebrate their ability to circumvent the Twitter ban, through the use of a virtual private network (VPN).
Users who are logged into a secured VPN server can access public networks while their internet connection remains anonymous and encrypted.
Buhari, a former military dictator, relied on his party’s social media campaigns to rebrand his candidacy which had been flawed by his autocratic antecedents.
The Buhari administration would later champion plans to regulate the use of social media in Nigeria.
Twitter announced in April that it will set up its first Africa base in Ghana, the second-most populous country in West Africa, after Nigeria.
In a statement announcing the decision, Twitter described Ghana “as a champion for democracy, a supporter of free speech, online freedom, and the Open Internet.”
At the time, Information Minister Lai Mohammed — whose ministry announced the Twitter ban — blamed the decision on Nigerians criticizing their country.
“This is what you get when you de-market your own country. We are not saying that you should not criticize the country but be fair and patriotic. You can imagine the kind of job opportunities that siting that headquarters in Nigeria would have created, the kind of visibility it would have given Nigeria but we destroyed it,” Mohammed said.