UPDATED: Nigerian Government suspends Twitter amid row over President's deleted tweets

The Nigerian federal government has announced the indefinite suspension of social media network Twitter. This may have been in response to a now deleted post by the president.

UPDATED: Nigerian Government suspends Twitter amid row over President's deleted tweets

Twitter's operation in Nigeria is suspended.

Today, the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture announced that the Federal Government of Nigeria has suspended "indefinitely the operations of microblogging and social networking service Twitter in Nigeria”. The communication, done by a tweet thread, was signed by Segun Adeyemi, Special Assistant To The President (Media), Office of the Minister of Information and Culture, Abuja.

The statement cited the “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria's corporate existence”, as the reason behind the move to suspend the social media platform.

It also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to "immediately commence the process of licensing all over the top media and social media operations in Nigeria".

This may mean that the NBC may require licensing of all social media platforms that want to operate in Nigeria. This move would definitely stifle free speech and access to the internet. It is not known what specific license criteria will be required, or the fate of other social media networks operating in Nigeria, that may not have gotten this new license.

What made the Federal Government of Nigeria suspend Twitter?

This announcement may have come due to preceding events surrounding a tweet from the official handle of Muhammadu Buhari, the president of the Federal republic of Nigeria. This tweet was removed by Twitter for violating its terms of use.

The controversial tweet had stated that the “young people misbehaving will be dealt with violently” and led to massive outrage on social media, particularly twitter where the post was made. There were immediate calls for the tweet to be removed, even some suggesting the handle of the president be banned from the social media platform.

President Buhari's controversial tweet
The controversial tweet

The tweet was the last of a thread where the president had expressed his displeasure at the rising levels of insecurity in some parts of the country, particularly the recent attacks on facilities owned by the Independent National Electoral Commission's (INEC). The post had a noticeably aggressive tone, with the now deleted tweet a culmination of subtle threats and warnings.

It also hinted at the dark memories of the Nigerian civil war, where an estimated 3 million lives were lost by both warring sides. “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,” the tweet read. “Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand”.

Earlier, the minister of information, Lai Mohammed during a press conference questioned the motives of Twitter in deleting the controversial tweets. He accused the social media network of a “suspicious agenda” and stated action will be taken by the government for Twitter’s decision delete the tweet.

With this directive, Nigeria joins a list of countries including China, Iran, Russia, North Korea and Turkmenistan that have also either banned or restricted access to the social media network. It is unclear how long this suspension will last, as it is stated to have effect “indefinitely”.

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