Nigerians mixed reactions to the Federal Government’s conditional unbanning of the microblogging and social networking platform, Twitter.
President Muhammad Buhari, ordered the four monthly ban on Twitter on Friday during the October 1st Independent Day anniversary, with some conditions attached to it.
He listed the conditions to include that Twitter must pay attention to national security and cohesion; registration, physical presence, and representation in Nigeria; fair taxation; dispute resolution, and local content.
A first-class traditional ruler in Osun State, the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrasheed Adewale Akanbi, Reacted to the development and describeth unbanning of Twitter as a welcome development.
He made mention that, President Buhari should be applauded for taking a step in regulating the activities of Twitter in Nigeria.
“The government is trying to remedy what has been shattered for a very long time. This is a good one. I commend him for that.
“I think Twitter is ready to do business, that is why Buhari is lifting the ban and it is a welcome development. We want Twitter to be on, but they have to pay what they have to pay as a business concern. All social media platforms that are making money in Nigeria should also be paying,” the monarch said.
Also commending the development, the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Engr Gbenga Adebayo, hailed the development but regretted that losses have been made. He commended the government for demonstrating courage in the step it took.
“It’s a good development and I hope that lessons have been learned by all concerned. First, the platform owner which is Twitter has learned lessons that Nigeria is not a country where anything can happen or anything goes. What others might not be able to do by this action, the government has demonstrated a measure of boldness which many western governments have not been able to do. That is the first point.
“The second point is that the victims of all of these are the users of Twitter; the reason being that when the government suspended Twitter, there were significant losses to the economy. Some businesses have suffered losses; some small-scale businesses that the government was trying to promote have a significant impact on their resources due to the impact of the ban. So there’s that loss on the part of the economy.
“So while the government has demonstrated boldness in doing what they did, it has cost the government and the economic losses. It also tends to send a wrong signal particularly to the hi-tech community, especially other platforms that provide similar services like Twitter that if this could happen to Twitter, then it can happen to them. So, it could also impact the confidence of foreign investors. No doubt but whichever we look at,” he said.
Also speaking, the immediate past president, Association of Licensed Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola, said it is not yet Uhuru as the lifting of the ban is still predicated on the conditions set by the Federal Government.
Tiniola while acknowledging the good effort of the president over the lasting issue which has lasted for four months now, said: “from observation, the government has not completely left the ban because there are certain conditions attached to the lifting of the ban. The real issue is that the Federal government wants to regulate social media. Social media is a global platform and can not be regulated or controlled.” He said
Elaborating, he said it is unhealthy for the government to focus on social media platforms that it may set a bad standard for the fate of others which may not help the country’s desire to achieve a digital economy.
He expressed his feeling that social media is expected to be a forum for free usage and adoption by the citizens to be able to connect to their loved ones, business, and Nigerians. The digital future requires some level of freedom.”
On what to expect from Twitter as an organization, Teniola said it was within Twitter’s right to accept or do otherwise.
Former Head of Digicomms, Oyo State, Babajide Fadoju, said he was excited that Twitter and the Federal Government had reached an amicable agreement.
“It is delightful because Twitter has become one of the platforms for exchange within the country where young and old alike can freely interface – it has come to stay as one of the proponents of our freedom of speech. It is, therefore, a welcome development to see that the ban has been lifted in the end.”
Gbenga Sesan of Paradigm Initiative, a digital rights advocacy group, agrees with Teniola. In his Twitter handle, he posted: “Just to be clear, @MBuhari didn’t lift the #TwitterBan. What you heard in his speech is the government’s attempt at downplaying their illegal action, laying a foundation for how to exit the hole they dug themselves into, and trying to make it sound like it’s up to Twitter.
“I think Twitter has a strategy for their business and I encourage them to realize that while Cloud Nations are increasingly powerful, even compared with nation-states, it means there’s much more responsibility. They must ensure that harmful content is discouraged, the process for making platforms safe is transparent, and that human dignity (rights) is not sacrificed for being seen as a compliant institution
“The rule of engagement should go to nation-states and cloud nations to include the third sector because civil society is closer to citizens and is able to help maintain a balance between respect for rights and achieving the objective of effective content moderation.”
A digital media expert, Mr. Taiwo Akande, said Nigerians would remain the greatest losers if Twitter fails to yield grounds.
According to him, should Twitter fail to acquiesce to the demands, there is no other option for Nigerians.
“Twitter has its own rules of engagement which anyone ready to access their services must adhere to. Twitter didn’t force the government to access its services and cannot expect preferential treatment from the social media platform. They (Twitter) made their rules and the Federal Government joined voluntarily. But with the conditions set by the government, I foresee a situation where Twitter may not comply. But then, let’s wait and see.”
A security expert, Mr. Lekan Jackson Ojo, who was unimpressed with the development, described the Federal Government’s decision on Twitter as ‘an academic statement’, saying unbanning Twitter now is not important to Nigerians.
“Lifting the ban on Twitter is just an academic statement because they didn’t have enough backing to really enforce their banning of Twitter because, during that period, almost 80 percent of Nigerians were still operating on Twitter.
“Majority of the celebrities, religious leaders, and politicians were using Twitter.
“You can ban Twitter and let the economy grow. You can ban Twitter and let the high level of insecurity reduce. You can ban Twitter and give value to naira.
“To me banning and unbanning Twitter is not an issue to me now. It is not important to many Nigerians.
Before Twitter, Nigerians were living. Without food, who can live? Without a good security system, who can operate any business? It doesn’t make any sense. Unbanning Twitter is nothing.
“I think the president and his handlers didn’t know what to say, that was why they said they unbanned Twitter. It is meaningless to Nigerians.
Also reacting, a lawyer and human rights activist, Mr. Tayo Douglas, said the ban on Twitter was unnecessary in the first instance.
According to him, Nigeria gained nothing from the ban, rather, the ban had affected the businesses of many of the Nigerian youths that depended on Twitter.
How I wish President Buhari knew the number of businesses that this ban on Twitter had destroyed for the past few months.
“Majority of the unemployed youths in the country depended largely on Twitter to ventilate or conduct their businesses and you can imagine what they must have lost. It is a pity that the ban was ever placed in the first instance. What has the president of the country gained by the ban on Twitter?
“Nothing and absolutely nothing,” Douglas said.
A filmmaker and Founder of Abuja Film International Film Festival, Fidelis Duker, described the ban as a total embarrassment to all Nigerians.
He said he was not excited about the lifting of the ban.
According to him, there was no basis for the ban in the first place and even after the ban, most of the active users were able to find other methods of using the platform which in my opinion confirmed the government failed.
“However, we must realize that the lifting of the ban is conditional, which is not different from what the government has been saying in four months. Therefore there is nothing to be excited about because the fallout coupled with Twitter’s response to the lifting of the ban shows ego tripping by the parties.
“My advice is that the government should just allow the telecom companies to open the platform for genuine users to do their legitimate business and engagements.
Another lawyer, Santoma Joel Ibeneche, said the lifting of Twitter was strategic and intended to deflate the fears and worries of many Nigerians in the areas of the economy, security, and the weakness of our currency.
Abraham Great of Straight Record Limited, while commending the president for unbanning Twitter, however, advised that internet security should not be the responsibility of Twitter, adding that Twitter should have a physical presence in Nigeria.
” Taxing social media companies would only be possible if they have a physical presence in our country. The revenue should largely go into research and development for Nigerian youth to be able to thrive in the ever-evolving and innovative age we live in. We need to take a global leader in innovation. The talents are in abundance.
“Overall, Twitter ban lift would end up being the most discussed aspect of the president’s speech today, although there was an opportunity to use the 37 minutes to do more in connecting with the bleeding nation.”
Also reacting, a lawyer and social development analyst, Olutunbosun Osifowora, said the initial ban on Twitter by the President was an unfortunate event.
“Listing conditions for unbanning of Twitter is a subtle way of further eroding the right to freedom of speech which is given without conditions under the present laws. What is more annoying is the president restricting the people to how they should use the social media platform. The citizens are at liberty to use the platform without being subjected to unwholesome conditions by the president, who very much does not take kindly to criticism.
The Nigerian government on June 4, 2021 suspended Twitter in Nigeria, after it deleted a tweet by President Buhari.
Twitter had accused the President of breaching the site’s rule.
Though the government was not happy with what Twitter did with the president’s tweet, it also alleged that Twitter was being used to undermine “Nigeria’s corporate existence.”